Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SA's polluted reservoir draws lawsuit

Govt offers Hartebeespoort water assurances as lobby prepares to sue


By: Loni Prinsloo
28th June 2010

Plans by a lobby group to lay criminal charges, owing to an alleged
lack of progress in attempts to remedy water pollution at the
Hartebeespoort Dam, north of Pretoria, were described as "unfortunate"
by South Africa's Department of Water Affairs (DWA) on Monday, which
insisted that progress is being made.

A group known as the Environment and Conservation Association is
reportedly preparing to bring criminal charges against Water and
Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and President Jacob
Zuma for their failure to uphold section 24 of the Constitution, which
requires the government to protect water resources.

But acting DWA DG Nobu Ngele said that the Harties Metsi Ame
Remediation Plan, which was implemented by the department in 2006 to
tackle the challenges of water pollution at the dam, as well as the
effects of illegal waste discharges, was making progress.

She, thus, called on stakeholders to work with government to deal with
the problem rather than taking up an adversarial stance.

Ngele said that several short- and medium-term actions had either been
taken or were under way to deal with the pollution.

The first phase of the programme had focused on removing exotic
sediment, establishing shoreline and wetland conditions in the dam
and, the introduction of biological and mechanical harvesting of algae
and hyacinths.

"Progress is being monitored by two ecological surveys that show that
the fish composition in the dam has already improved since the
implementation of this programme."

A second phase had extended the focus to the broader catchment impacts
and included improved storm water management, as well as the
protection and remediation of wetlands and in-stream river habitats
with more stringent standards of compliance and enforcement.

Ngele said that the department's enforcement unit continued to take
legal steps against officials that neglected their duties and the
Madibeng Municipality, in particular, for allowing sewage from its
wastewater treatment plant to pollute the Hartbeespoort dam.

The DWA had also allocated R500 000 to the Madibeng Municipality to
enhance institutional capacity to deal with the problem.

It had allocated a further R27-million for a bulk water project, which
included the expansion of the water purification works to meet current
demand in the area.

Ngele pointed out that DWA also expected a technical assistant and
engineer to be deployed by its emergency response facility to the
Madibeng Municipality to assist with the implementation of their water
services projects.

"The issue of pollution in the country's water source is complex," she
said, arguing, too, that the current challenges afflicting the dam
were historic in nature and has been in the making for more than 80

But the environmental lobby group insisted that their stance was
necessary, owing to the fact that government had failed, for years, to
take action against polluters, including mining companies.

It has been reported that the organisaiton plans to open a docket
would before the end of this month.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb

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