Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the Federation for Sustainable Environment, among the first NGO's to blow the whistle on the water crisis, lambasted the report for permitting the discharge of partially treated water into rivers.
"Are we going to allow the mining industry to pollute rivers until a solution that is cheaper for them is found?," asked Liefferink. "Are we going to allow the department of water affairs to make this legal? Are we going to allow the government to forsake the 'polluter pays' principle?"
She said the budget for dealing with the problem was "extremely modest".
Finance minister Pravin Gordhan set aside R225-million in his budget to tackle the problem.
Melissa Fourie, chief executive of the Centre for Environmental Rights, said the situation on the Witwatersrand "calls for immediate action".
Her organisation backed the department of water affairs issuing notices to mining companies under the national water act.
She said: "We specifically welcome efforts to hold mining companies who contributed to the pollution in the past accountable. However, the department of water affairs has issued a number of weak but fiercely resisted directives to mining companies in the past few years to bear the cost of pumping and treating decanting acid mine drainage.
Some directives allowed mining companies to discharge partially treated, still heavily polluted, acid mine drainage into rivers and streams. Even these weak directives have been challenged and sometimes ignored by mining companies. The department must be prepared to take more stringent action ..."
Water affairs minister Edna Molewa said: "Pumping and treatment of mine water is critical and should be implemented in the western, central and eastern basins as a matter of urgency.
Although the partial treatment of mine water to neutralise acidity and remove metals will be accepted in the short-term, it is important that in the medium to long term mine water needs to be treated to a quality suitable for direct or indirect use."
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