Thursday, 1 March 2012

Changing faces of the Catchment Forums

Rietspruit river
Sewege spillage in Sebokeng
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance has been participating in the catchments forums for the last three years. In the Vaal Triangle we have Leeukuil, Rietspruit and Leeu-Taaibosspruit. Many people still don’t know about this forums. This forums meet once in three months, venue is decided by the industries in their board rooms, where is not easily accessible for communities to reach.  

These forums bring together stakeholders together to deal with issues such as water quality, water licensing, education and awareness rising. The forums operate within the terms of the NWA (1998) and the NWRS (2004). From the water team, we have trained community members who attend these meetings . The aim of our participation in the forums to engage with water quality issues in mining and industrial areas, but also with pollution emanating from waste water treatment works under the control of municipalities.  

Water quality concerns have received a prominent position in the media especially in Vaal Triangle. VEJA has been pushing that the forums must pay special attention to the involvement of communities in water quality. We want to change the face of this forum so that ordinary citizens are able to participate fully and have a voice in the water governance in South Africa.

VEJA chairperson was nominated to be a deputy chairperson of the Rietspruit. These is the second time in 3 years that VEJA has been appointed in these important task, VEJA Coordinator Samson Mokoena was appointed to chair the same forum in the last 3 years. The Rietspruit forum was initiated in 2001, as a result of water and air quality struggles between what now ArcelorMittal and fence-line communities is protesting against its pollution.

This has showed that VEJA is in the right tract to monitor and make sure that previously disadvantage groups have a strong voice. VEJA is confident that Phenius Malapela will represent the interest of the communities as he comes from the working class and poor community of Sebokeng and he is passionate about speaking on behalf of the poor.      

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