The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), have attended the Minister of Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation’s Budget Vote and the Stakeholder Engagement on the 16th of July, 2019.
The Stakeholder Engagement included presentations by the CEO’s of the two established CMA’s (which were referred to as “Water Boards”); the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN)*; National Business Initiative; the World Bank and WISA. Regrettably, other stakeholders such as NGOs were not given the opportunity to engage.
*(The Partners in the SWPN are the South African Ministry of Water and Sanitation, World Bank, IFC, WEF, SAB, Coca Cola, Anglo American, Sasol, Nestle, Eskom, South 32, Exxaro, SASA, Distell and Coca Cola Bottling Association.)
Allow me please to briefly report on the Minister’s Budget presentation. Please click here for the full report.
From a non-political and non-racial NGO’s perspective, it was hoped that the Minister’s and the opposition parties’ presentations would have transcended political and racial barriers. Regrettably, it did not.
The Minister acknowledged inter alia:
- The financial crisis/financial mismanagement (“huge financial problems”)
- The irregular expenditure
- The inequality in the distribution of water
- Lack of capacity (limited technical staff) particularly in the municipalities (the compulsory training of municipalities)
- The disproportionate percentage of water used for agriculture (61%) with 95% of water in the hands of white people
- The aging infrastructure without the necessary skills and support at the right time or the right place to manage our problems on time
- Vandalism and theft of infrastructure
- Non-payment for services
- The lack of skills which necessitated the appointment and monies spent on over-priced consultants
- Effluent in rivers
- Challenges with coordination between the three tiers for the provision of water
- Non-compliance by the mining industry with its water license conditions
The proposed interventions are inter alia:
- To engage Treasury on the significant budget shortfalls of more than R2 billion affecting key projects such as the Emfuleni intervention project and Mzimvubu Water Project.
- The Departments of Finance, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation must put measures in place to top slice the municipal grants to service the debt owed to the Department and its entities before the grants are paid to Municipalities.
- Municipal employees must be required, as is the case with other public servants, to undergo compulsory training so that they are equipped to manage our resources.
- Review of the tendering process.We will review our tendering process.
- Revival of the DWS’ construction unit who will, together with members of the construction industry, establish maintenance task teams and attend to much needed maintenance intervention, especially in the water treatment and recycling stock.
- Request to Cabinet to declare all major dams national key points.
- An intensive campaign to digitise all its stock holdings, data and documentation. part of protecting resources and preventing damage and neglect.
- New regulations on the conservation of water.
- Appointment of river, dams and sewerage inspectors from 1 August 2019.
There was, according to the FSE’s recollection, no reference to:
- The long term management of acid mine water (the fact that AMD will continue to be produced long after the closure of gold and coal mines and the fact that continuous pumping of underground mine water is a pre-requisite);
- The establishment of the 7 non-operational CMAs; and
- The compliance status by the DWS of the directives by the South African Human Rights Commission inter alia:
- The DRDLR (together with the DWS) are directed to take steps to translate existing guidelines regarding the provision of water on privately owned land into policy to ensure that basic protections in law regarding access to water are capable of being evaluated and enforced.
- The DMR (together with the DEA and the DWS) must, respectively, include in their annual reports the number of compliance notices or other sanctions imposed, including the proportion of successful interventions and or criminal prosecutions undertaken against non-compliance.
- The DEA (together with the DWS) are directed to take definite steps to ensure legal protection of our water source areas through, inter alia, the use of section 24(2A) of NEMA the inclusion of a specific provision that provides that the Minister of Water and Sanitation has the power to restrict or prohibit the grant of water use licences in water sources areas alongside the use of a host of legal tools, including section 26(g) of the Regulations of the National Water Act, section 49 of the MPRDA, management tools in terms of Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 43 of 1983 (CARA) and SPLUMA, Environmental Management Frameworks, and any further tools available. A further provision that should be applicable, includes declarations in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004, of water source areas as threatened ecosystems.
- The DWS is directed to provide a report on the current state of water use monitoring. The Report should include:
- Mechanisms in place to conduct regular determination of the water reserve, including how the DWS accounts for anticipated migration and population growth, limitations or inadequacies in municipal-infrastructure as well as other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought;
- An audit of all existing WULs to ensure they adequately protect the water reserve, including basic needs and ecological requirements;
- Steps taken to monitor compliances with WULs and its impacts, particularly in mining areas; and
- The impact mining has and will have on the water reserve and how this aligns with the National Strategic Plan for Water.