DWA is committed to averting any potential water crisis

Nobubele Ngele, the Acting Director General of Water Affairs says it is unfortunate that the issue of Acid Mine Drainage has become a band wagon for opportunistic groups to get onto.

“There had been significant international news media coverage of the AMD issue in inter alia, Canada Globe and Mail, Sky News, Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, National Geographic, Le Monde, etc.” says the CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Envirionment.

Mariette Liefferink comments further that the media statement below was issued by Dr. Mava Scott on behalf of the Department of Water Affairs on the 30th of September 2010.

NGOs, civil society groups and affected downstream users were not consulted.

Media Statement:

The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) wants the South African public to know that Gauteng will not run out of water in the near future, it is also incorrect to say that 80% of South Africa’s water will be so polluted that it will not be possible for it to be treated to potable quality and that the Gauteng province will be worst affected as the Environment Conservation Association claims. Gauteng has a world class water system boosted by importing water from places such as KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. The water is purified to standards that comply with the department’s standards and these standards are fully aligned with the World Health Organization guidelines.

The Department therefore further wishes to dismiss as untrue claims that 80% of South Africa’s water resources will be polluted by 2015 to such an extent that a completely new water source must be found in the next two years. This claim appears to have no foundation or backing of a scientific nature. The Department also has no knowledge of the environmental group having had engagements with government on this matter as it is falsely claimed by members of this organization.

“Our planning teams are continuously planning well into the future for all major towns and cities in the country”, says Nobubele Ngele, the Acting Director General of Water Affairs. In fact the department has just completed a situational analysis of the water situation in the country and has published a report {integrated water resource planning report} for South Africa in this regard. With regard to pollution she said that  “ Even if water contains some impurities, it can still be purified up to the SANS 241 standard, the water purification processes in SA is so well advanced that any water regardless of quality can be treated to potable (drinkable) quality”.  “Look at Anglo American” she said “They are successfully treating polluted mine water in Emhlangeni (Witbank) to drinking quality and providing this water to the local municipality”.

The views expressed by these organizations point to a lack of understanding of the water sector and developments over the past few years. The question must be asked as to how this figure of 80% was determined?  Further the threat by Fedusa to go on strike over issues of water quality is bizarre at best. In this regard however the Department acknowledges the right of union members to embark on strike action as they see fit. The Department would also like to warn against opportunistic groupings, some seeking publicity others wishing to capitalize on the fears of the public about the availability of water in Gauteng and South Africa at large in order to secure funding for their organizations.

Ngele says it is unfortunate that the issue of Acid Mine Drainage has become a band wagon for opportunistic groups to get onto.

“What is becoming apparent is that this subject which poses a significant challenge is being used to advance  private interests”. The efforts of government to deal with AMD are well known.

Earlier this month, the appointment of an inter-ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage was announced by Minister Buyelwa Sonjica to the public. This Committee is tasked with addressing the current challenges of AMD and has already had its first meeting with the aim of charting a way forward. The Department has acknowledged the potential risks associated with mine water management and the need for a lasting solution. An announcement will be made soon through the Inter Ministerial Committee with regard to the work of a panel of experts working on this.

“We can rest assured through these and many other initiatives that the country will not face a water crisis at any time in the future” said Ngele. The Department calls on all concerned groupings, unions and individuals who wish to contribute positively to efforts to protect   this precious resource (water), to engage its officials. In its capacity as custodian of water resources in the country, DWA is committed to averting any potential water crisis.

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