Saturday, 21 April 2012

Vaal River water resource management areas are under Threat

Vaal River System

Vaal River passing Vereeninging
The department of Water Affairs hosted the 6th strategy steering committee meeting for Integrated Water Resource Management. The meeting was held on the 19th April in Pretoria. Amongst other stakeholders Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance participated in the meeting represented by Samson Mokoena and Phenias Malapela.





This committee deals with different interventions within the Vaal River Systems,  and the strategies that are being implemented are as following:

  • Integrated Water Quality Management,
  • Water use compliance and  enforcement (eradication of illegal irrigation water use) in the Vaal River System,
  • Gauteng Municipalities Water Conservation and Water Demand Management,
  • The classification of significant water resources in the Upper, Middle and lower Vaal water management areas.
According to the Department of Water Affairs these are important interventions and they need to be implemented immediately because they course a significant threat to the security of water supply in the Vaal River System and they needs special attention,

For the first time we have seen DWA taking the issue of enforcement and compliance very seriously. The eradication of illegal irrigation has received a special attention from the Minister of Water Affairs, she has made it clear that the farmers that steals water from the Vaal river they will be dealt with harshly, she even took a special visit to one farmer and took out his irrigation pumps. We welcome these and it is shown from the reports that if the illegal irrigations are not dealt with accordingly the future of water supply in Gauteng will be compromised by these activities of illegal use.The are 8525 properties that are irrigating in the entire Vaal River System 1202 are unlawful users, 1361 verification completed, verification not started 3 927, validated completed 6900, validation in process 1894.

Irrigation's next to Vaal River
According to DWA,the must be regulations and measurements of taking water for irrigation purposes, but these regulations have not been published, and these has course the confusion within the farming community as who is the unlawful water users.  According to official within DWA these is delaying effective actions against partially unlawful water users the issue of addressing unlawful water users is receiving a high priority in the regional offices according to DWA.

The biggest problem that is facing the Vaal River System is the Water Quality in the Upper, Middle and Lower Vaal, these problems comes from different pollution sources such as untreated sewage from non-functioning municipal Waste Water Treatment Works, industrial effluents, Acid Mine Drainage and other activities that are happening within the Vaal River System. Department has received complains from communities and civil society groups complaining about the continuity of pollution within  Vaal River System that is causing health hazards.

If you think of people of Tumahole in Parys that do not have clean drinking water because of the pollution and the failer of local municipality to purify water for drinking purposes, and we have not seen the Minister of Water Affairs taking a strong stand against the municipalities that discharge the row sewage in the Vaal River System. The question is why DWA have not yet take a single approach in dealing with the threat in the Vaal System. In numerous occasions  the civil society has question DWA on the mining companies that are mushrooming with in the Vaal River System operating without Water Use licences, and municipalities that does not comply with the Water use licences and no actions has been takes against them,

From the DWA the issue of compliance and enforcement is receiving attention within regional offices and the Project Letsema has been well publish  but the numbers has not got out to civil society and concerned citizens. We hope that the minister will visit these mines and close them down and visit municipalities like Ngwathe in Northern Free State and deal with officials that do not care for the poor who are still struggling to get access to clean drinking water and sanitation because of pollution and Mal-administration within government.

Algae at Vaal Barrage
We hope that the Integrated Water Quality Management Strategy will receive the attention like Gauteng Municipalities Water Conservation and Demand Management Strategy and other strategies within DWA. we hope that we will get a report back from DWA on Letsema Project to fast track the issue of water use licenses so that all who contravene the low like the unlawful irrigation users can be punished. As Citizens also want our rights to be protected and our dignity be restored and we hope that the minister will treat water as a common not as a commodity that must be trade on for the one section of society at the expenses of the majority.

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