Municipalities ignore need to protect the health of the public and the environment

8 April 2012

In an earlier post, I quoted the following statement made by the World Health Organization:

The World Health Organization claims that 4,000 babies die every day as a result of poor water and sanitation. This blood is on the hands of those utilities who have failed to provide safe water and sanitation to their existing customers, or extend it to new ones.

Here’s something along these lines right here in South Africa (and don’t for a moment believe that it is an isolated issue):

In a report posted by the Deputy Shadow Minister of Water Affairs, Marti Wenger, it appears that, while some of this country’s infantile political morons are spending their salaries spewing vitriol over the use of the term ‘refugee’, real problems that affect the health of many are seemingly being ignored.  Here is the article [Source: DA Newsroom]:

Today, I visited the Tshing Community outside Ventersdorp to learn more about the water service delivery problems experienced in the area. Access to clean water is a constitutional right to be enjoyed by all South Africans. It is becoming increasingly clear that not all municipalities take this right seriously. 

This is the second in a series of visits to assess the quality of water service delivery across the country.

In a visit to Marquard in the Free State last week, I discovered that poor maintenance of water infrastructure has created a situation where water has to be bussed in from Clocqulan and people are queuing for up to three hours to fill up their containers. No progress has been made since the June 2011 Green Drop Report, which found that the waste water treatment plant in the municipality did not comply with basic requirements. The supervisor of the plant confirmed that nothing had been done since the report’s release.

Conditions are no better in Ventersdorp.

The Ventersdorp Water Services Development Plan (WSDP) compiled in March 2011 revealed that 18 households had no access to water at all, while 655 households (3,275 people) had no access to sanitation.

The 2011 Green Drop Report listed Ventersdorp as being 100% in the ‘critical risk’ category. Nine other towns in the province also fall into this category. The Green Drop assessment team observed that ‘the municipality was totally unprepared [for the visit] despite various notifications; the water services authority shows limited interest in – and knowledge of – their wastewater business’.  As in Marquard, the regulator found that these conditions pose a significant health and environmental risk. 

The concluding findings were that:
•    Not one of the Green Drop criteria or requirements was met during the assessment;
•    100% of all collection and treatment systems do not conform to their legal compliance or to standard norms and good practice; and
•    all aspects need to be addressed in a systematic, risk-based fashion to first achieve a minimal (basic) level of functionality, before moving wastewater business towards a more sustainable future.

Most of the recommendations of the 2011 Green Drop Report or comprehensive Ventersdorp WSDP have not been implemented. The only improvement is that the waste water treatment works are now monitoring and logging the flow of waste water.

In preparing for this visit, my phone call to the manager of the WSDP project revealed that he could not even provide a site address for the Ventersdorp Waste Water Treatment Works.
Sludge continues to be dumped at the waste water treatment site and sewerage has been flowing from the plant into the Tshing community for approximately two months. Nothing has been done about this.

There is no reliable access to water for members of the informal settlement opposite Tshing’s Extension 5.  The closest available tap is at the waste water treatment plant. Community members have to walk at least a kilometre to get there.

What we saw today indicates a growing trend of apparent disregard for the basic needs of ordinary South Africans. No progress is being made in realising progressive rights – like the right to water. This cannot be allowed to continue.

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