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Editor

Editor

LETTER TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

 

Dear Mr Jones,

 

I thank you for your brief response.

 

Permit me please to copy Commissioner Ameermia, Ms Chantal Kisoon, Ms Yuri Ramkissoon and Mr Matthew du Plessis on this e-mail, since my organisation (the FSE) and I have engaged with them in the past as well as with Ms Janet Love, a former Commissioner of the SAHRC. The FSE was/is also a member of the Commission’s Section 11 Advisory Committees on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), unregulated artisanal mining and recently the National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-Affected Communities in South Africa.

 

Permit me now to, as an established human rights defender, and member of inter alia the Department of Water and Sanitation’s:

  1. Water Sector Leadership Group
  2. Sustainable Development Goal 6 Task Team
  3. Catchment Management Fora (CMF) including the Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum, the Blesbokspruit CMF,  the Wonderfonteinspruit CMF, the Mooi River CMF, etc.
  4. Strategy Steering Committee on the Reconciliation of the Integrated Vaal River System

 and on behalf of the FSE, respectfully report as follows:

 

Since the Commission’s Hearings and the Defence Force’s intervention, Rand Water reported exceptionally high e-coli counts and elevated total ammonia, which are indicative of sewage pollution, at the last Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum (attached).  The instream water quality downstream of the Sebokeng@Rietspruit Waste Water Treatment Works showed e-coli counts of 6,539,700 per 100ml and ammonia levels of 17.  According to the instream water quality guidelines for the Rietspruit Catchment e-coli counts of more than 400 counts per 100ml and ammonia levels of more than 5 are unacceptable. 

 

It follows hence that the situation has not improved but deteriorated.

 

The situation is not unique to the Rietspruit Catchment.  The recently launched National Water and Sanitation Master Plan reported that:

  • 56% of waste water treatment works and 44% of water treatment works are in a poor or critical condition;
  • 11% of this infrastructure is completely dysfunction;
  • Between 1999 and 2011 the extent of the main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery;
  • South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and those that remain, 33% are in a poor ecological condition;
  • R33 billion more is needed each year for the next 10 years to achieve water security.

 

The recently published DWS’ State of the Rivers Report (2017-2018) found that:

  • Only 15% is in a good condition;
  • The Vaal River Water Management Area has no sites in a good condition

 

The DWS reported during the 2ndStrategy Steering Committee of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy that, notwithstanding the fact that the Integrated Water Quality Management Strategy identified a need for the implementation of a strategy to address microbial pollution in the Vaal River in 2009, the strategy has not been implemented, that is, after the effluxion of  more than ten (10) years.  (Please see second attached document.)

 

In the light of the above-mentioned facts, and the fact that a number of human rights are currently being violated such as the right to life, the right to dignity, the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being and the right to sufficient water (of sufficient quality and quantity), we beg of you to – in terms of your mandate - expedite the publishing of your report; to take the necessary steps (including the issuing of Directives to and prosecution of polluters) to secure appropriate redress of the violation of the abovementioned human rights and to carry out research.  In this regard, the FSE has offered the services to the Commission of Russell Tate and Simone Liefferink, who are both water quality experts,  on a pro bona basis.  Their research is ongoing and they are eager to engage with the Commission on their results.  The research by Prof. Johann Tempelhoff of the North West University and a non-executive director of the FSE is also ongoing and, it is our considered opinion,  will be of great value to the Commission.

 

We respectfully request a response to this e-mail.

Friday, 10 January 2020 10:03

FSE'S COMMENTS ON THE VALLEY SILTS PROJECT

Find attached the FSE’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report of Ergo Mining (Pty) Ltd:  The Valley Silts Project, Riverlea and Booysens Reserve, Johannesburg.

Wednesday, 08 January 2020 12:27

FSE'S REPORT FOR DECEMBER 2019

The final report for 2019 is attached for download.

Wednesday, 08 January 2020 12:19

FSE's REPORT FOR NOVEMBER 2019

The report is attached for download.

On Sunday, 1 December at 7pm, eNCA took a critical look at the country’s water woes in a special debate titled ’The Uncomfortable Truth’. The Department of Water and Sanitation estimates that we lose 37 to 41% of our available water to leaks, at an estimated cost of R6-billion a year.

 

Watch the videos here.

Government Gazette 28 November 2019 attached for download.

Tuesday, 03 December 2019 11:53

Water & Sanitation Plan 2030

Download the attached Water & Sanitation Plan for 2030.

NEWS / 25 OCTOBER 2019, 10:04PM / SHEREE BEGA

A decision by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs setting aside the environmental approval for a planned open-cast coal mine on the East Rand has been hailed as "excellent" for the region.

In her decision on October 20, Minister Barbara Creecy stated that it was vital that commercial agriculture be safeguarded in the Springs/Nigel area.

Local resident, business and environmental groups had appealed the Department of Mineral Resources' (DMR) approval of the integrated environmental authorisation for the proposed Palmietkuilen coal mine in March this year.

Creecy has now upheld their appeal, setting aside the DMR's decision.

The Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Conservation Trust, the Largo and Groovaly AH Residents and Businesses, Aston Lake Community and the Springs Nigel branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, were among the organisations who had brought seven appeals against the project.

In August 2016, Anglo Operations, on behalf of Canyon Coal, applied to build the open-pit coal mine. The project is anticipated to have a life of mine of 47 years, with the anticipated production of 2 400 000 tons of coal per year to supply local and international markets.

The proposed mine is upstream of the Blesbokspruit, which feeds the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in Springs and flows into the Vaal. It is a designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance.

In her appeal decision, Creecy notes how Hugo Arthur de Koningh, the second appellant in the matter, argued that agricultural land "has to disappear for the sake of economic development" and expressed concern that "food security became more threatened".

Creecy agreed."While I am aware of the social benefits of the proposed mining, I find that such does not outweigh the need to to protect and preserve the prime agricultural land.

"The said area has been utilised for agricultural activities for generations and can go on to be used for such provided soil disturbances are avoided."

"One of the biggest threats to the retention of productive agricultural land is the conflict between agriculture and mining land uses. With the matter at hand, I find that it is vital to preserve the current land use, mainly commercial agriculture," Creecy said.

"This is excellent news for Springs and the farmers of our area and our thanks to all who participated in the seven appeals that were lodged," said the attorney in the case, Philip De Jager.

"I would, however, point out that the applicant is entitled to have this decision judicially reviewed." 

Local environmentalist Stan Madden, the "father of the Blesbokspruit", welcomed Creecy's decision. "I was one of the group of organisations (Springs-Nigel branch of Wessa) that were against the environmental authorisation in the Palmietkuilen area.

"I and others are very pleased with the Minister's decision not to grant this authorisation. It does give a little hope for the future of this sensitive wetland and agricultural heartland, Madden said.

Mariette Liefferink, the CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said it was "heartened" by Creecy's decision to uphold the appeal by interested and affected parties and to set aside the decision by the DMR.

"It demonstrates the power of active citizenry to ensure that development is ecological sustainable and economically justifiable.

"With South Africa being a water scarce country, with a rapid population growth that consumes a substantial amount of food and water, and vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change and climate variability, the proposed open cast coal mine would have compromised sustainability and would have exceeded environmental tipping points," she said.

In their appeals, residents cited how an objection by the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries against the loss of high agricultural land was ignored by the DMR.

On September 25, comments were provided to Creecy by the now Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, indicating that the proposed mining activity is located within a proposed protected agricultural area, which has a priority rating of B.

"According to DALRRD, this means that this area is regarded as high potential agricultural land, which should be protected for agricultural production purposes," Creecy noted.

The directorate of spatial information management within Creecy's department was requested to do a screening of the proposed mining area, "which confirms that the site comprises mainly very sensitive agricultural areas", she said.

The DMR had stated that the impact on agricultural land was considered and assessed and studies had shown how the proposed mining activity "will have minimal and acceptable impacts on food security".

The Saturday Star

According the Draft Water and Sanitation Master Plan, high water yield areas constitute only 4% of South Africa’s surface area and are the water factories of the country. Currently only 18% of them have any form of formal protection.  Furthermore, 57% of river ecosystem types and 65% of wetland eco system types are threatened, making wetlands the most threatened of all ecosystems. 

 

In view of the above mentioned threats, the FSE, a member of the Coalition, who defended the protection of the Enkangala-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, where Atha Proposes to mine coal,  salutes the latest decision by the Constitutional Court. 

 

Press statement attached.

 

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Cape Town – Environmentalists have hailed a decision by the Constitutional Court to dismiss Atha Africa's leave to appeal against...

Watch the video here.

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