The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi today, 6 August 2013, led a round table discussion with mayors and municipal managers on waste management and water conservation issues at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park.
The mayors’ dialogue, the first of its kind, is a fulfilment of the commitment made by the Deputy Minister during her Budget Vote address at the National Council of Provinces earlier this year to meet with local government to discuss water and waste management issues.
During the roundtable, a pledge was signed by the Deputy Minister and mayors in attendance, declaring their commitment to waste management, as well as water conservation and demand management (WCWDM). In recognition of Women’s Month, the pledge also included a commitment to working towards women and youth participation in water and environmental programmes.
The dialogue, which included focused group discussions, provided overviews of waste and water conservation in South Africa; local government’s strategy with regards to waste and water; women and youth involvement in water and environmental programmes; as well as perspectives on water conservation and waste management in the country.
The waste sector has been identified as one of the critical sectors with the potential to contribute substantially to the generation of jobs within the green economy. Waste management has also been identified as being at the core of service delivery, especially at local government level.
It is in this light that the Department of Environmental Affairs is increasingly expanding its programmes in job creation and enterprise development programmes within the waste sector. The department has conducted numerous studies that have clearly illustrated the capacity constraints that are experienced by municipalities in delivering waste services.
Thus an integrated intervention that brings together an increase in capacity levels of municipalities, as well as heightened levels of awareness amongst citizens is overdue. This, as highlighted by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi during her address, “is not only to meet service delivery needs, but also to provide dignity and quality of life to our people.”
The capacity gaps in municipalities, however, also present an opening for the creation of job opportunities, on-the-job training, continuous up-skilling, as well as enterprise development for the youth. This has begun to be addressed through initiatives such as the Youth Jobs in Waste programme.
Through Youth Jobs in Waste, an estimated 3 577 jobs will be created by placing young people in municipalities, who will be serving as landfill site assistants, waste collection administrators, and environmental awareness educators.
The Deputy Minister urged the mayors to support the youth in their municipalities, saying “We urge all of you who will be hosting these young people in your municipalities, to welcome them and provide them with the required support, exposure and mentorship they will need.”
South Africa also faces the challenge of water loss. This challenge is articulated through the Non-Revenue Water study by the Water Research Commission. The study highlights a number of critical issues that relate to this “non-revenue water”.
According to the study, the country loses at least 37% of its water through this Non-Revenue Water. Non- Revenue Water is a product of many factors, these include poor planning, limited financial resources to implement the necessary programmes, poor infrastructure, asset maintenance and lack of capacity and water leaks.
It has been noted that the water sector must be innovative in tackling the challenges of water loss. There is a need to remove the silos within which members of the sector operate in order to create the necessary partnerships that will help tap into the expertise and resources needed to address its challenges.
Programmes such as the War on Leaks have provided opportunities for the Department of Water Affairs to tackle high water leaks through the provision of basic plumbing skills for unemployed youth. The programme sees participating youth conduct water audits, identify leaks and fix them, retrofit inefficient water fixtures, fittings and devices, and finally undertake water conservation advocacy within communities.
Through the War on Leaks programme, the department continues to create employment and skills development for unemployed youth. Local indigent youth are trained and appointed as Water Conservation Warriors to implement the education and awareness programme as well as the retrofitting and leak repair initiative.
These Water Warriors undergo basic training on plumbing, water leak repair and other skills training that would help them to develop SMMEs which would service the communities to create more permanent employment.
The department is also implementing the Adopt a River project, which emanated from the River Health Programme and is aimed at addressing the challenges of pollution of water resources in the country. The targeted participants are unemployed women, with female youth constituting the largest percentage.
Rural women have been brought on board to prove that natural resources can be managed using indigenous knowledge; and that this is not a task only for engineers and scientists. Through the Adopt a River project, 24 rivers were cleaned and 1 148 job opportunities created for women. Through the project, 44 women will be awarded bursaries in this financial year (2013/14) to study at various universities and FET colleges.
Another 181 women from various municipalities of the Western Cape were trained in plumbing and 214 women from the nine provinces have been trained as process controllers. There are also the Women in Water Awards; an annual programme launched in 2002.
The awards seek to recognise and honour the good work done by women and the vital role they play in the water sector; encourage perseverance in difficult conditions without resources; and for communities to learn good practices of water management and change their attitudes for the better.
During her address at the event, the Deputy Minister emphasised to the local government leaders that the signing of the pledge was a high-level commitment, declaring them the ambassadors of waste management, water conservation and demand management (WCWDM), as well as gender and youth development issues.
She asked them to carry out this responsibility “with full consciousness and understanding that we shall be binding and committing ourselves to another level of service delivery to South Africans across all strata. Let us do so with a common determination to ensure that we keep our word and be respectful servants.”