Two years on, answers still sought about Hartbeespoort Dam ‘fix-up’ project

30 October 2012

For some years now, Hartbeespoort Dam has been the focus of the so-called Metsiame Project, an endeavour that has spent millions on apparently trying to implement a remediation plan for this long-suffering reservoir.  Despite all the money that has been pumped into this project, no results have been forthcoming – this despite claims made in self-promoting articles in soft-science or engineering journals.  Given the flagship nature of the project, quite a few peer-reviewed articles should have emerged by now.

Back in 2010, the official opposition party called on the erstwhile Minister of Water Affairs to please account for the expenditure and provide details of proven progress.  That answer is still awaited.  Last week, the request was renewed by a further Parliamentary question (Q2978/2012) – directed to Minister Molewa who, as press reports have it, has her house in the Hartbeespoort Dam environs.  Pity the dam is not near Nkandla, it would have been fixed up long ago!

The latest question on this issue reads as follows:

1) Whether the Minister is satisfied with efforts by her Department and Randwater to improve the water quality of Hartbeespoort Dam, if  so, how was this conclusion reached, if not, what will be done to rectify the situation;

 2) (a) For the (i) 2011-2012 and (ii) 2012-13 up to the latest date  for which information is available how much money has been spent on the remediation programme and (b) how are these amounts broken up;

3) How much money is budgeted for the remediation programme in the (a) 2013-2014 and (b) 2015-2016 financial years;

4) Whether Randwater, as implementing agent of the remediation programme at the dam, is considering a review of the effectiveness of current interventions, if so, what are the relevant details?

5) Whether the Minister will consider conducting such a review, if so, what are the relevant details, if not, why not?

Rumour has it that the implementing agent, Randwater, is somewhat embarrassed about the project – which is run by a Water Affairs official with no qualifications in limnology.  Randwater has allegedly been prevented from appointing certain qualified specialists to provide oversight and, recently, the project team launched a shameless, futile and very unprofessional attempt to squash the results of a scientific study that casts into doubt  the value of one of the larger interventions they are applying.

Various and recent admissions by the Department of Water Affairs directly acknowledge just how dependent South Africa is on our dams – and the need for them to be managed appropriately, not as big tanks of dodgy quality water.  Per the latest version of the National Water Resource Strategy, water is now centrally located in various core strategies.  To give proper effect to the importance of water, there is no time for hobbyist approaches to reservoir management. Water Affairs needs to ensure that the best available skills and knowledge are applied and not be fooled into thinking that taxpayers money is being properly spent.

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