Monday, 3 October 2011

Water Catchment Forum and VEJA

The South African constitution guaranties water as a human right and the bill of rights is a cornerstone of our democracy in South Africa it enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom

Water related provisions in the South African constitution,  chapter 2 of the constitution, has relevant provisions that relate to the right to water, Sections 7(2), the state must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights in the bill of rights. Section 9: Equality, Section 24: Environment, Section 26:  Health Care, Food, Water and Social Security, Section 39: Interpretation Clause, when interpreting the bill of rights, a court, tribunal or forum must promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, and must consider international low and may consider foreign low, all of these clause in the bill of rights are related to the right to water, and other human right have a connection with right to water, housing, food, life and environment.

South African government has passed legislations that are meant to meet these human right and these are: The National Water Act of1998 the state must used these Acts to Promote equality, Health, Food Security and other fundamental human rights, these act also call for the South African government to decentralized water so that the previously disadvantaged citizens can participate in water allocations in a new democratic state, these Act also gives the citizens the opportunity to be part of the decisions on water governance and also they can  asked the Minister of Water affairs   to established the Water  Catchment Management Agencies these bodies are important as they are mind  to manage and decide on water allocations in a particular Catchment Area, also the citizens can nominate who must be part of these Water Management Agencies.

South Africa has being divided in 19 Catchment Management Area and the was supposed to be 19 Water Management Agencies, the current discussions is that the will be only 9 Water Management Agencies, and these need the amendments to the Water Act the important pillar of any democracy is accountability to the citizens, public participations and openness these are values that shape any society, and the establishment of Water Catchment Forums in 1996 has  given south African citizens a space to participate in water governance is South Africa and many of these forums have played important part especially in monitoring and reporting as much a the are challenges on Water Forums  they continues to play important part.

Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance has been participating in the Water Catchment Forums since 2006, focusing at Rietspruit Forum in Sebokeng, Leeu-Taai Forum, Sasolburg and surrounding area.  In 2008 VEJA was elected to chair Rietspruit which was for the first time civil society organization chaired these forums. We also participate in the Upper Vaal Area catchment Forums in Vilge Forum, Blesbok Forum and Ngwathe Form, by establishing CMA at the Upper Vaal it will be an important thing as these area are under threat by mining, indusrial pollution and sewer networks.  VEJA is capacitating communities to be part this forums.         

We hope that the Department of Water Affairs’ will legislate Water Catchments Forums during the review of the IWRS and fastrack the establishments of Catchments Management Agencies so that we can transformed the water sector and make sure that those who were previously disadvantaged on the basis of their gender, race and class a fully involved in the water governance in South Africa and the government can use the Act to fight poverty and inequalities in our Society and build just society 

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