Water News

Tuesday, 07 July 2020 19:13

Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life.     Supplied
Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life. Supplied

Article by Sheree Bega

The black, sewage-contaminated water that flows from the Rietspruit into the Loch Vaal is so polluted that even algae struggles to grow in its polluted depths.

“All we get is black sewage sludge in areas where there’s less current,” explains Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the Rietspruit in Vanderbijlpark.

But sightings of cyanobacteria blooms of toxic blue-green algae in the main Vaal River, caused by sewage, are becoming more frequent, particularly in summer, he says.

That the Vaal is becoming eutrophic is a real concern, says water scientist Professor Anthony Turton.

Eutrophication causes an overgrowth of algae that harms water quality, reduces oxygen, produces toxins, impacts river and marine life and affects food and human health.

“Once a water body becomes eutrophic and cyanobacteria becomes established, no known method in SA has ever been able to reverse that process,” Turton explains.

SA’s most eutrophic water is in Hartbeespoort Dam - the most studied of all systems. “Despite the very best scientists being unleashed on the problem, we have been unable to restore the system to its previous trophic status. With our current available knowledge, it’s safe to believe the Vaal is now becoming eutrophic and this is going to persist as the the new normal.”

Eutrophication is the “logical outcome” of discharging high levels of phosphates and nitrates into river systems - natural nutrients that drive the production of plant biomass. “Biomass typically takes two forms in SA - the familiar problem of water hyacinth at Hartbeestpoort Dam and the cyanobacteria blooms of blue-green algae that the Vaal is now succumbing to.”

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has now released its draft inception report for its National Eutrophication Strategy. The strategy, with its 10-year horizon, seeks to provide guidance to the DWS and water sector at large “on strategies to avoid, reduce, mitigate and manage the effects of eutrophication on SA’s water resources”.

It notes that the project was initially started in 2002 and “never completed” but was reinstated last year.

“The issue of eutrophication had not received adequate attention, previously, which could have been one of the reasons the situation exacerbated even more,” reads the report.

The Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) Policies and Strategies for SA in 2016 and 2017 "emphasised eutrophication as one of the country’s pressing water-quality challenges, along with salinisation, acid mine drainage, urban pollution and sedimentation”, it states.

Eutrophication, says Turton, is an old problem that has now reached “catastrophic proportions” due mostly to the failure of the DWS in its role as national regulator. “DWS has allowed the Blue and Green Drop Reporting Standard to fall into dysfunction. This has allowed municipalities to act with impunity knowing they will never be sanctioned for non-compliance. The biggest culprit is the 824 wastewater treatment works (sewage plants) we have in every municipality. About 60% of them are now dysfunctional, so they collectively discharge over 5billion litres of sewage into our rivers daily. We draw our drinking water from those same rivers.”

No bulk water provider in the country that takes water from a river and produces potable water uses technology capable of removing the toxic by-product of eutrophic water: microcystin. “This is a potent molecule that is released when the cyanobacteria is distressed. The molecule becomes parts of the water and cannot be filtered out from the water.

“This means that South African citizens will increasingly be exposed to microcystin as long as our wastewater plants continue to fail.

“Eutrophication is a slow onset disaster that will plague SA for the next generation. The manifestation will increasingly be in the form of low dose but long-term exposure to microcystin. The coronavirus has merely added a new complication, because of the potential for faecal-oral transmission through contaminated rivers.”

Satellite work by the CSIR has already revealed that 60% of the country’s dams are eutrophic.


Sightings of blue-green algae, caused by sewage, is becoming more frequent, especially in summer. Supplied

In his 2015 paper, “Living with Eutrophication in SA: A review of realities and challenges”, scientist William Harding noted how the socio-economic well-being of SA is largely dependent on reservoir lakes, with between 41% and 76% of total storage eutrophic or hypertrophic.

“This is in stark contrast to a claimed 5% made by the DWS. Data and information on the incidence and toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms are sparse, yet severe problems exist The most seriously impacted reservoirs are located in the economic heartland of SA, which has an extant regional water-quality crisis.”

Many of SA’s rivers, reservoirs, and coastal lakes “no longer have the resilience to assimilate nutrients or sequestrate toxicants”, the paper found.

“The responsible agency (DWS) urgently needs to establish a reservoir management programme that embraces remaining individual and institutional memory, integrates all available knowledge and scientific findings, prioritises needs and acquires those skills and resources necessary to meet what is likely to become a crippling legacy of inaction.”

Eutrophication is a “big challenge and the situation is worsening”, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Melusi Thwala, who studies emerging environmental pollutants and water quality. “However, it is mostly dams/large impoundments that have historically faced such a challenge because they act as reservoirs in which pollutants such as nutrients can accumulate over time.

“For instance, in excess of 40% of approximately 500 large impoundments are eutrophic and others exhibit a character of non-natural nutrient enrichment.

“For river systems more and more cases are being observed but in smaller systems the rainy season can provide a dilution relief effect, but not so much in large systems such as the Vaal and Olifants rivers.”

Their hard-working nature means that large river systems receive continuous and large nutrient inputs from various anthropogenic (human-caused) activities, with “municipal wastewater treatment works being a priority input source due to their declining capacity to treat wastewater”.

“Simply put, the more human settlements, the more sewage waste is produced, sometimes exceeding the volumes that wastewater treatment works can handle. Agricultural and industrial activities also contribute nutrients into rivers,” Thwala says.

Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, says the most important drivers of eutrophication are dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems and sewage spills over many years into receiving streams.

“The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.”

The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to by 2020, “identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”.

“The above-mentioned actions must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy," she says. "Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the strategy impotent.”

Eutrophication is a core priority of the Integrated National Water Resource Strategy and was identified as an issue of concern by the DWS in 2009.

It was highlighted in the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (Phase 2) in March last year as an "unaddressed issue of concern".

Tackling it is entirely reliant on activities performed within the DWS, catchment management agencies (CMAs), together with other institutions within the water sector, Liefferink says. “However, the lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to CMAs is a major issue of concern. The development of the strategy is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs become functional.”

Eutrophication is a "crisis of unprecedented proportions", says Turton made all the more problematic because few people outside of the aquatic sciences and environmental health community "are aware that such a problem even exists”.

Monday, 29 June 2020 19:31

Comments attached for download.

Monday, 29 June 2020 19:17

Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes. 
Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes.

Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

Article by Sheree Bega | original article here.

On the map, Bernice Maritz lives in Connaught Avenue. But her family have another name for it: Shit Street.

A pool of sewage gathers like a dark stain on the street in Peacehaven or “Poohaven” as it’s been described, in Vereeniging.

The spillages are often far worse. “Usually our whole street is covered in sewage,” said Maritz. “That’s why my mom calls it 'Shit Street', because that’s all there is. The smell is terrible.”

She was home a few weeks ago when a stinking torrent of human waste flooded her yard. “It was horrible,” said Maritz, as she stepped across remnants of the spillage. “This whole area, everything, was covered in sewage. We had poo, toilet paper, condoms and nappies, all over our garden. The sewage went through the walls It’s so unhealthy to live like this, especially now with the coronavirus."

“This stopped being sewage a long time ago,” said local resident Tersia Venter, flicking through an endless stream of photos of sewage spills in the area on her phone. “If you can see human turds in the street, it’s not sewage anymore.” 

The Vaal’s sewage pollution crisis has hit hard in Vereeniging. Many of the region’s 44 pump stations remain dysfunctional, with the impact “particularly noticeable in Vereeniging, with ongoing high sewage pollution levels in the Vaal River and in the streets”, according to local environmental watchdog Save the Vaal Environment (Save).

Between Vereeniging and the Vaal Barrage, the river remains polluted, contaminating water supplies in Parys and communities further downstream.

The non-profit said Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had “taken a leadership role” in the R1.2 billion Vaal Intervention Project, which aims to repair Emfuleni municipality’s wastewater treatment system: a 2600 km pipe network, the 44 pump stations and three wastewater plants that collapsed in 2017. Still, “there’s a long way to go before we see a sewage and pollution-free Vaal River in the Emfuleni area”.

In recent months, the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) took over from the SANDF, which could not complete its refurbishment programme as it was not properly funded.

“We did not really see any improvement in Peacehaven when the army was here and the only change we now see is when the trucks are here to pump out the sewage,” said Venter, the secretary of the Vereeniging community policing forum.

“It looks good today because these guys are here. But if they don’t come back within three days, then we sit with a major problem again. Most of the people here in Peacehaven can’t use their own freakin’ toilets and showers. The moment they do, the sewage spills over into their housesThey cannot walk from one side of their own freakin’ driveway to the other side because they’re walking through sewage. Since 2017, this has been normal to us and that’s unacceptable.”

For the last few months, sewage has no longer been permanently running in her street, said Zelda Mullen, who lives in Peacehaven. But it still pushes up from a manhole, pooling in her flowerbed. The stench is unbearable. “It's been here for years. We can't braai outside here. It stinks. God forbid, you start cooking."

She wondered if her family’s proximity to the sewage could have been to blame for her 63-year-old husband, developing life-threatening septicaemia in March.

“The doctors said it was probably airborne. He didn’t have an operation, no illness, nothing. So we don’t know if it was that (sewage), but hello, when you’ve lived with shit on your street and in your home ..."


Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes. 

Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

John was in ICU for 17 days and had kidney, liver and heart failure. “The kids had to come from the UK because we thought this was it. It will take a year-and-a-half for him to fully recover. We’re so sick of living in the Vaal.”

Across the country, the municipal sewage system has crumbled. The government's Water and Sanitation Master Plan reveals 56% of the 1150 municipal wastewater treatment works and 44% of the 962 water treatment works, are in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.

Between 1999 and 2011, the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with “some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery”.

Environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, said the Vaal River is the country’s most hard-working. “It’s a very important river system because it supplies water to 60% of the economy and 40% of the population and it augments other river systems like the Crocodile West and Limpopo river system ... What has happened to the Vaal is like a festering sore that took years to manifest.”

Since Erwat took over, it has unblocked pipes in the sewage network, but the "benefits will only be seen when all pump and treatment plants are fully operational,” said Save.

Erwat removed "50 tons of rubble in the system, cleaned 25km of lines, fixed or unblocked 383 manholes, replaced 460 manholes" and improved the flow to the three wastewater treatment works, according to Save member Mike Gaade.

The DWS was not extending Erwat’s one-year contract at month end and was “now directly responsible for this project”.

DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said negotiations were still under way. “Whether they continue or someone else takes over is something that will be finalised in a week or two.

“What they have done is what they were expected to, which is quite a good bit. There is improvement but it’s not optimal.

"Until we’re able to resolve the whole situation, we cannot rest on our laurels,” he said.


South Africa - Johannesburg - 18 June 2020 - Mike Gaade from Rietspruit in the Vaal talks about how the sewage continues to spill and affect the river.
Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Rietspruit suffers the consequences of ineffective wastewater treatment

The completion of expansion to the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant is a step in the right direction, says Save. “This project started several years ago and came to a standstill in 2018 due to lack of funds. It was 96% complete at that point. Under the Minister’s watch, this project was restarted in mid-May 2020. July 2020 seems to be a realistic completion date.”

The new module will treat about one third of the Sebokeng treatment plant’s wastewater when operational. The rest of the Sebokeng plant has not been working since it was vandalised two years ago. “Work is required on that plant so that the remaining two thirds of sewage can be properly treated.”

There is no information about when effluent pumped into the Rietspruit from this plant will be fully compliant with required standards, it says.

“Work is required on the Rietspruit plant, which is currently operating at some 30% of its capacity and has been deteriorating for years. Yet, its repair programme has been left continuously on the back burner.

"This plant continues to be a major contributor to pollution of the Rietspruit and Vaal Rivers, and has caused a build-up of some 1.5m of black sludge on the riverbed where the Rietspruit enters Loch Vaal.”

It continues to pump poorly-treated sewage into the Rietspruit. Save's Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the polluted Rietspruit, has gone from optimistic to "mildly pessimistic" in the last six months.

“All the promises we get have not been fulfilled ... It's about four years that the sewage sludge has been coming down here to the Rietspruit but it got really bad in November 2017. It's a bit better, partly because they've unblocked some of the pipes and got the flow going ... The sewage crisis affecting everywhere from the Klip the other side of Vereeniging right through the whole town and in the streets and then it's affecting Parys."

In October, Save agreed to suspend litigation to give the intervention team an opportunity to show progress, but it warns that unless there’s a drastic improvement, it will continue court proceedings.

Monday, 29 June 2020 19:05

By: Nelendhre Moodley | original article here.

Following poor water control measures over the years, South Africa now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place as its dire water situation continues to worsen. Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu recently launched South Africa’s National Water and Sanitation Master Plan – but is the plan too little too late? Infrastructure recently caught up with the Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s CEO Mariette Liefferink for a view on exactly how severe South Africa’s water challenges really are and whether the country will be able to meet its sustainable development goals in relation to water by 2030.

Citing the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan’s Call to Action launched in November 2019, Liefferink says the document highlighted South Africa’s shocking water situation, with 56% of wastewater treatment works and 44% of water treatment works reported as being in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.

“More than 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have been lost, and of those that remain, 33% are in poor ecological condition. Furthermore, between 1999 and 2011 the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery. In addition, municipalities are losing about 1 660 million cubed metres per year through non-revenue water – this includes all water supplied that isn’t paid for, including physical water losses through leaks in the distribution system, illegal connections, unbilled consumption and billed, but unpaid, water use. At a unit cost of R6/m3 this amounts to R9.9-billion each year.”

Added to this are the delays in the implementation of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (to augment the Vaal River System for greater Gauteng), the uMkhomazi Water Project Phase 1 (to augment the Mgeni System for the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Metropolitan Area) and the augmentation of the Western Cape Water Supply System, which have significantly impacted on water security, and subsequently on the socio-economies of the areas.

“If demand continues to grow at current levels, the deficit between water supply and demand could be between 2.7 and 3.8 billion m3/a by 2030, a gap of about 17% of available surface and groundwater,” notes Lifferink.

Given the severity of South Africa’s water challenges, the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan called for the following interventions:

  • Revitalisation of the Green, Blue and No Drop programmes and the publication of results annually.
  • Identification and prosecution of major non-compliant abstractors (water thieves) across the country, with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Identifying and prosecution of big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Declaration of strategic water source areas and critical groundwater recharge areas and aquatic ecosystems recognised as threatened or sensitive as protected areas by 2021.
  • Review and promulgation of aggressive restrictions within the legislation to restore and protect ecological infrastructure by 2020.
  • Secure funds for restoration and ongoing maintenance of ecological infrastructure through operationalising the water pricing strategy annually.
  • Establishing financially sustainable Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) across the country, and transferring staff and budget and delegated functions, including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.
  • Establishment of a National Water Resources and Services Authority and Regulator by 2020.

“Although government had planned to have these measures in place, at the time of writing the FSE was not aware that any progress had been achieved on the targeted areas,” says Liefferink. “We hope that the impact of the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan will be delivered through action, and through the recognition that ‘you cannot drink paper plans’.”

Given the depth of South Africa’s water challenges, is there a chance of meeting its sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

In 2015, South Africa committed to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 6 which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Included in the SDG report, says Liefferink, is target 6.3 which is focused on improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and reuse globally by 2030; with target 6.6 looking to protect and restore water-related ecosystems.

“According to the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation’s River EcoStatus Monitoring Programme State of Rivers Report 2017-2018, only 15% of South Africa’s rivers are in a good condition and the Vaal River Water Management Area has no sites that are in a good condition; and according to the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) National Biodiversity Assessment: The Status of South Africa’s Ecosystems and Biodiversity, two-thirds of the total length of South Africa’s rivers are in a poor ecological condition.”

Furthermore, the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Directorate’s presentation on wetlands and lakes noted that the SA National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) 2018 indicated that while 6% of wetlands were protected, 79% were in the threatened category.

In addition, “despite the interventions of the SA Defence Force, Ekurhuleni Water Care Company, the minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and the South African Human Rights Commission in the pollution caused by spillages of raw sewage into the Vaal River, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Rand Water’s quarterly water quality results show that the in-stream quality of water at the Rietspruit at Sebokeng has E. coli counts of 9 188 000per 100ml. The regulatory limit is 400 counts per 100ml. E. coli in water is a strong indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. In light of these factors, it is difficult to see how South Africa will reach its SDG by 2030,” says Liefferink.

Tackling our water woes

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Liefferink has painted a dire picture of South Africa’s water situation. But can new legislative interventions and the mining industry’s endeavours curb the downward slide?

While practical on-the-ground developments remain sluggish, government has made some headway through the promulgation of new water rules and regulations, which include the Water and Sanitation Department’s publication (a collaboration with the Minerals Council) called Benchmarks for Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) In the Mining Sector.

The commodity-based national water use efficiency benchmark aims to guide the acceptable levels of water usage by the mining industry, and to improve water use efficiency within the mining operations.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs has published the Proposed Regulations pertaining to Financial Provisioning for the Rehabilitation and Remediation of Environmental Damage caused by reconnaissance, Prospecting and Exploration which notes that “financial provision must guarantee the availability of sufficient funds for the remediation and management of residual and latent environmental damage including the ongoing pumping and treatment of polluted or extraneous water”.

According to Liefferink, this in essence means that the CEO or business rescue practitioner of the company is responsible for implementing the rehabilitation plans.

“What is new is the fact that the liquidator or business rescue practitioner is also responsible for the determination of the financial provision and the implementing the rehabilitation plans and report.”

Liefferink also flags the South African Human Rights Commission which has directed the Department of Water and Sanitation to comply with the following:

  • Include in their annual reports the number of compliance notices or other sanctions imposed including the proportion of successful interventions and/or criminal prosecutions undertaken against non-compliance.
  • Take definitive steps to ensure legal protection of our water sources areas through the deployment ofthe relevant legislative tools in place.
  • Provide a report on the current state of water monitoring, including:
    • Conducting regular determination of the water reserve, including how the DWS accounts for anticipated migration and population growth, limitations or inadequacies in municipal infrastructure as well as other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought.
    • Audit on all existing water-use licences to ensure they adequately protect the water reserve, including basic needs and ecological requirements.
    • Monitor compliance with water-use licences and its impacts, particularly in mining areas, and the impact mining has and will have on the water reserve and how this aligns with the National Strategic Plan for Water.

The FSE has yet to receive a response on the Human Rights Commission’s progress in relation to the directives, says Liefferink, however the mining industry has been more proactive in progressing its water agenda, especially Sibanye-Stillwater and DRDGOLD.

Diversified mining house Sibanye-Stillwater, which was recognised as the most ‘collaborative’ and ‘water-saving’ company in the local mining industry by Rand Water in November last year, has participated in the creation of the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) Assessment Tool.

In line with its water-wise agenda, the miner has a number of initiatives under way including:

  • Potable water independence: using alternative available groundwater sources and rainwater harvesting to help reduce its reliance on purchased water sources.
  • Reduce water loss through:
    • implementing effective real-time metering, water balance management reporting, proactive leak detection and immediate repair initiatives.
    • minimising losses of water through evaporation and seepage by optimising the density of tailings deposition and recovering and recycling of water at our tailing facilities.
    • improving water-use efficiency by tracking and managing water-use efficiency KPIs for all consumers.

Gold surface retreatment company DRDGOLD too continues to progress its water conservation plans, which include reclamation interventions at its operations aimed at removing sources of pollution, rehabilitating targeted areas and enhancing ecosystem functioning, including attraction of fauna and flora, and improved water quality, among others.

“We hope that more mining companies will be proactive rather than reactive as far as mine water management is concerned and that businesses will realise that water security presents a critical and profound challenge to South Africa’s social well-being and economic growth. Poor water quality is one of the major threats to South Africa’s ability to provide sufficient water of suitable quality that can support development needs. The financial resources currently available for managing water quality are insufficient for the task, and do not recognise the level of investment that is required to counteract the economic harm done by declining water quality,” says Liefferink.


Image: Jozi Gold ©Maanda-Nwendamutswu

 

Friday, 05 June 2020 11:42

The following comments are submitted – with diffidence and deference - on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE). The FSE is a member of a number of theDepartment of Water and Sanitation’s Steering-, Project- and Strategy Steering Committees, Implementation Task Teams; Expert Steering Committees; the WSSLG’s SDG6 Task Teamand a number of Catchment Management Forums.

From a reading of the Inception Report in terms of the Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy we deduce that the Scope of Work will include inter alia a report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes; the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy; putting the Strategy into Practice detailing the actions, the roles and timeframes; developing a monitoring and reporting system; stakeholder involvement; etc. The estimate timeframes from the 1st component to the implementation of the Strategy (“putting the Strategy into Practice”) will be approximately 20 months.

While we welcome the development of actions that would provide the detail necessary to turnthe National Eutrophication Strategy into action (s 2.4 of the Inception Report, titled “Strategyinto Practice”), such as the assignment of roles and responsibilities and the timeframes for undertaking the actions, it is the FSE’s considered opinion that it is not necessary to wait forthe development of the National Eutrophication Strategy to immediately implement a number of actions to address the challenges of eutrophication. Analogous to the FSE’srecommendation, the IWQM Policy identified eutrophication already in 2016 as one of the five aspects of water pollution as being priorities for immediate regulatory action at the national level.

The following challenges were identified by the DWS, which require immediate action:

1. The lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to catchment management agencies

page1image26058816page1image26066304page1image26058048

The Inception Report on page 1 informs us that “this project is entirely reliant on activities performed within the Department, the CMAs, together with other institutions within the watersector”.

It is common cause that the number of WMAs was reduced from nineteen (19) to nine (9) in 2013 and that the establishment of the CMAs has been slow. By the end of 2016, only two of the nine CMAs were established in terms of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998 and functional. No functions have been delegated to these bodies which are therefore currently only responsible for the limited initial functions of a CMAs as set out in the Act. DWS acts as CMAs in most of the country.

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, 2018 called for the establishment of financially sustainable CMAs across the country and transfer of staff and budget1 and delegate functions including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.

Atthetimeofwritingweareunawareofanyprogressinthisregard. ThedevelopmentoftheNational Eutrophication Strategy (“the project”) is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs becomefunctional.

2. Dysfunctional Waste Water Treatment Works

A key contributor to the deterioration of water quality of South Africa’s water resources and the marked increase in nutrients and microbiological contaminants with associated health risks is the result of untreated or partially treated municipal wastewater discharges from sewage treatment works.

To exemplify:

The recent instream water quality results of the Rietspruit@Sebokeng within the Rietspruit Catchment Management Area as provided by Rand Water show an e-coli count of 9,188,000 per 100ml for the period January to March 2020.

The resulting eutrophication in major dams has caused health threats to livestock and humans.

We are of the considered opinion that the most important driver of eutrophication is dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems, and sewage spills over many years into receiving steams2. The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.

The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to, by 2020: “Identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national

1 There are substantial financial shortfalls if Catchment Management Agencies are to be fully implemented and operationalized.

2 The state of our waste water treatment works (56% of waste water treatment works and 44% of water treatment works are in a poor of critical condition; 11% are dysfunctional) has significantly impacted upon the ability of downstream ecosystems to operate effectively with nutrient build-up and a general drop in water quality. This has resulted in a nutrient build up in our rivers and wetlands. According to the NW&S Master Plan between 1999 and 2011 the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500% with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery. South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and of the remaining 3.2 hectares, that is, one third are already in a poor condition.

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communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”(1.4.8).

The above-mentioned actions, we respectfully suggest, must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy. Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the National Eutrophication Strategy impotent.

3. Eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes

As a deliverable in terms of s 2.2 of the Inception Report, a Report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes is envisioned.

Mining, in particular platinum mining, can result in increased nitrogen levels in groundwater through the use of nitrogen-based explosives. These various nitrate sources can contribute to mining-related impacts on the water resources.

Most commercial explosives contain between 70% and 90% ammonium nitrate – which is highly soluble in water. Spillages, dissolution in wet holes and incomplete detonation during blasting activities will result in soil and water contamination with nitrates, nitrites and ammonia. Nitrogen-rich water is typically pumped from the underground workings and then circulates through process water dams, the tailings dam return water and the concentrator plant. If not contained in the mine water circuit, surface spills or seepage through unlined facilities may pose a risk to groundwater. (Reference: https://www.srk.co.za/en/za-helping-mines-find- real-source-nitrates-water.)

Since algae and other plants use nitrates as a source of food, it may result if unchecked, in eutrophication.

In view of the aforesaid, the FSE recommends that the Report also includes the impacts of mining in the eutrophication challenges.

4. National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme

Finally, kindly advise regarding the status of the National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme which assesses trophic status, risks and trends of single impoundments, river reaches or canals.

SUBMITTED BY:
Mariette Liefferink.
CEO: FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT 2 June 2020.

Comments attached for download.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 19:31

8 May 2020 | Author: Theresa Bhowan | Edited by Nadine James

TOO SALTY Additional salinity, owing to the current rate of treatment, creates water security risks

 

With the delay in the long-term treatment or desalination of acid mine drainage (AMD) in the integrated Vaal river system and the delay in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II, interventions are required to reduce the risk of water restrictions, states mining environmental activist organisation Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE).

The FSE’s forecast for the extent of the deficit in terms of water shortages is substantial as the integrated Vaal river system supplies 60% of the economy and 45% of the population.

“If the demand continues to grow at the current levels, the deficit in South Africa between water supply and demand could be at a gap of around 17%,” says FSE CEO Mariette Liefferink.

Interventions are essential to reduce the risk of water restrictions until the LHWP Phase II can deliver water. Such interventions include water conservation and water demand management savings, eradicating the unlawful use of water, the desalination and reuse of mine water in terms of a recalibrated model, as well as the implementation of the Tshwane Reuse Project.

Moreover, there is the immediate and short-term treatment of AMD by means of neutralising the water or using a pH adjustment. “In most cases, metals will precipitate out of the solution if the pH is adjusted upwards. It should be noted that the metals do not simply disappear, but change to a different oxidation state, which change them from a soluble to a solid form. These metals can again be mobilised and solubilised if the water becomes acidic,” notes Liefferink.

Failure to establish a sustainable long-term solution to AMD will result in an increase of the salt load of total dissolved solids in the Vaal river, since the current short-term treatment of AMD contributes 362 t/d of such solids to the Vaal barrage.

“The additional salinity, as a result of the current rate of treatment of AMD, creates water security risks. To comply with the regulatory limit of 600 mg/? of sulphates, good-quality water that is obtained through dilution will have to be released from the Vaal dam to ensure that the water below the Vaal barrage is fit for use,” explains Liefferink.

Further, the projected demand for increased water releases of “expensive Lesotho water” from the Vaal dam will increase the stress upon the water supply.

“The additional volume of water that may have to be released, as a result of the salinity associated with AMD, will result in a considerable reduction of water supply to the Upper Vaal – so much so that the total capacity of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands scheme will be cancelled,” she states, adding that it is for this reason that desalination is of great importance.

 

Link to original article here.

Friday, 31 January 2020 10:39

Report attached for download.

Friday, 31 January 2020 08:47

11 & 12 JANUARY 2020 – the FSE conducting surveys within the Vaal river system with Russel Tate and Simone Liefferink.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 19:58

LETTER TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

 

Dear Mr Jones,

 

I thank you for your brief response.

 

Permit me please to copy Commissioner Ameermia, Ms Chantal Kisoon, Ms Yuri Ramkissoon and Mr Matthew du Plessis on this e-mail, since my organisation (the FSE) and I have engaged with them in the past as well as with Ms Janet Love, a former Commissioner of the SAHRC. The FSE was/is also a member of the Commission’s Section 11 Advisory Committees on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), unregulated artisanal mining and recently the National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-Affected Communities in South Africa.

 

Permit me now to, as an established human rights defender, and member of inter alia the Department of Water and Sanitation’s:

  1. Water Sector Leadership Group
  2. Sustainable Development Goal 6 Task Team
  3. Catchment Management Fora (CMF) including the Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum, the Blesbokspruit CMF,  the Wonderfonteinspruit CMF, the Mooi River CMF, etc.
  4. Strategy Steering Committee on the Reconciliation of the Integrated Vaal River System

 and on behalf of the FSE, respectfully report as follows:

 

Since the Commission’s Hearings and the Defence Force’s intervention, Rand Water reported exceptionally high e-coli counts and elevated total ammonia, which are indicative of sewage pollution, at the last Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum (attached).  The instream water quality downstream of the Sebokeng@Rietspruit Waste Water Treatment Works showed e-coli counts of 6,539,700 per 100ml and ammonia levels of 17.  According to the instream water quality guidelines for the Rietspruit Catchment e-coli counts of more than 400 counts per 100ml and ammonia levels of more than 5 are unacceptable. 

 

It follows hence that the situation has not improved but deteriorated.

 

The situation is not unique to the Rietspruit Catchment.  The recently launched National Water and Sanitation Master Plan reported that:

  • 56% of waste water treatment works and 44% of water treatment works are in a poor or critical condition;
  • 11% of this infrastructure is completely dysfunction;
  • Between 1999 and 2011 the extent of the main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery;
  • South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and those that remain, 33% are in a poor ecological condition;
  • R33 billion more is needed each year for the next 10 years to achieve water security.

 

The recently published DWS’ State of the Rivers Report (2017-2018) found that:

  • Only 15% is in a good condition;
  • The Vaal River Water Management Area has no sites in a good condition

 

The DWS reported during the 2ndStrategy Steering Committee of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy that, notwithstanding the fact that the Integrated Water Quality Management Strategy identified a need for the implementation of a strategy to address microbial pollution in the Vaal River in 2009, the strategy has not been implemented, that is, after the effluxion of  more than ten (10) years.  (Please see second attached document.)

 

In the light of the above-mentioned facts, and the fact that a number of human rights are currently being violated such as the right to life, the right to dignity, the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being and the right to sufficient water (of sufficient quality and quantity), we beg of you to – in terms of your mandate - expedite the publishing of your report; to take the necessary steps (including the issuing of Directives to and prosecution of polluters) to secure appropriate redress of the violation of the abovementioned human rights and to carry out research.  In this regard, the FSE has offered the services to the Commission of Russell Tate and Simone Liefferink, who are both water quality experts,  on a pro bona basis.  Their research is ongoing and they are eager to engage with the Commission on their results.  The research by Prof. Johann Tempelhoff of the North West University and a non-executive director of the FSE is also ongoing and, it is our considered opinion,  will be of great value to the Commission.

 

We respectfully request a response to this e-mail.

Friday, 10 January 2020 10:03

Find attached the FSE’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report of Ergo Mining (Pty) Ltd:  The Valley Silts Project, Riverlea and Booysens Reserve, Johannesburg.

Monday, 16 December 2019 11:30

On Sunday, 1 December at 7pm, eNCA took a critical look at the country’s water woes in a special debate titled ’The Uncomfortable Truth’. The Department of Water and Sanitation estimates that we lose 37 to 41% of our available water to leaks, at an estimated cost of R6-billion a year.

 

Watch the videos here.

Tuesday, 03 December 2019 11:53

Download the attached Water & Sanitation Plan for 2030.

SA NEWS

Radon Alert - Carte Blanche

Millions of South Africans are exposed to radioactive radon gas in their homes and workplaces every day, as the naturally occurring gas escapes through cracks in the earth. The second leading cause of lung cancer in several countries, radon breaks down and when inhaled, decaying atoms emit alpha radiation that can damage the DNA. There are no safe levels of radon concentration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency emphasises any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. Carte Blanche investigates why South Africa has no regulations to protect against radon accumulation in the home and what you can do to test your home and prevent lung cancer.   Watch the video here.

WITS Economics & Finance Courses: Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage

Economics & Finance Courses at the University of the Witwatersrand. Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage - Understand taxation for development and sustainability in mining. View the course here. Enrolment starts on the 7th of October 2019.

Mining activists in SA face death threats, intimidation and harassment - report

SATURDAY STAR | 19 APRIL 2019, 7:41PM | SHEREE BEGA Picture:Yvette Descham On August 13 2013, Billy M heard gunshots at the gate of his house. He didn't know who fired the gun, and, worried that local traditional leadership might be involved, he didn't report the incident to the police. For the next five years, the community activist from Fuleni, a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal bordering one of SA's oldest and largest wilderness areas, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, continued to receive threats.  "We know our lives are in danger. This is part of the struggle," he says, simply. Billy M's account is contained in a new report released this week, 'We know Our  Lives Are in Danger’: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities, which documents how community activists in mining areas face harassment, intimidation and violence. The report details how in Billy M's case, mining company Ibutho Coal had applied for rights to develop a coal mine in Fuleni in 2013. The development would have required the relocation of hundreds of people from their homes and farmland and destroy graveyards. "The mine's environmental impact assessment estimated that more than 6000 people living in the Fuleni area would be impacted. Blasting vibration, dust, and floodlights, too, could harm the community," says the report."During the environmental consultation processes, Billy M led opposition that culminated in a protest by community members in April 2016."The company reportedly abandoned the project in 2016 while another firm, Imvukuzane Resources is reportedly interested in mining in the area.The 74-page report, compiled by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice, describes a system designed to "deter and penalise" mining opponents.The authors conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police and municipal officials, describing the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape between 2013 and 2018. They report intimidation, violence, damage to property, the use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities. "The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilise to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants," write the authors."Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks."But municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organisers that have no legal basis while government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse."Some mining companies resort to frivolous lawsuits and social media campaigns to further curb opposition to their projects.  The government has a Constitutional obligation to protect activists," write the authors. Picture: Shayne Robinson, Section 27 Authorities should address the environmental and health concerns related to mining "instead of harassing the activists voicing these concerns,” remarks Matome Kapa, attorney at the CER.The report starts with the high-profile murder of activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was killed at his home after receiving anonymous death threats in 2016. Rhadebe was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), a community-based organisation formed in 2007 to oppose mining activity in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape.  "Members of his community had been raising concerns that the titanium mine that Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd proposed to develop on South Africa’s Wild Coast would displace the community and destroy their environment, traditions, and livelihoods. More than three years later, the police have not identified any suspects in his killing."Nonhle Mbuthuma, another Xolobeni community leader and spokesperson of the ACC, has also faced harassment and death threats from unidentified individuals. "I know I am on the hit list.… If I am dying for the truth, then I am dying for a good cause. I am not turning back," she says.But other mining areas have had experiences similar to that of Xolobeni. "While Bazooka’s murder and the threats against Nonhle have received domestic and international attention, many attacks on activists have gone unreported or unnoticed both within and outside the  country."This is, in part, because of "fear of retaliation for speaking out, and because police sometimes do not investigate the attacks", the authors found.The origin of these attacks or threats are often unknown. "So are the perpetrators, but activists believe they may have been facilitated by police, government officials, private security providers, or others apparently acting on behalf of mining companies. "Threats and intimidation by other community members against activists often stem from a belief that activists are preventing or undermining an economically-beneficial mining project. In some cases, government officials or representatives of companies deliberately drive and exploit  these community divisions, seeking to isolate and stigmatize those opposing the mine."The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 77 mining companies, including some in the research areas, responded that it “is not aware of any threats or attacks against community rights defenders where (its) members operate”.The authors state that while the mining sector and the government emphasise how mining is essential for economic development, "they fail to acknowledge that mining comes at a high environmental and social cost, and often takes place without adequate consultation with,or consent of, local communities".The absence of effective government oversight means that mining activities have harmed the rights of communities across South Africa in various ways. "Such activities have depleted water supplies, polluted the air, soil, and water, and destroyed arable land and ecosystems."Researchers also documented cases of police misconduct, arbitrary arrest, and excessive use of force during protests in mining-affected communities, "which is part of a larger pattern in South Africa".Last year, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University documented various efforts by traditional authorities to stifle opposition to mines in their communities. "In some cases, traditional authorities label those opposing mines as anti-development and troublemakers, thus alienating and stigmatising them.As a result, community members are often afraid to speak out against a mine in open consultations," CALS found.Research by the SA Human Rights Commission, too, has found that community members sometimes “are afraid to openly oppose the mine for fear of intimidation or unfavourable treatment (by the Traditional Authority)."The SAHRC says many mining-affected communities are experiencing “the creation of tension and division within communities as a result of mining operations.Sometimes, threats and intimidation against activists come from community members who have been promised economic benefit from the proposed project or are politically allied with the government or traditional authority."Local communities often do not benefit from mining activities, says the report. "Although South African law requires the development of social and labour plans (SLPs) that establish binding commitments by mining companies to benefit communities and mine workers, CALS has documented significant flaws in the development and implementation of SLPs."Despite the environmental and social costs of mining, the government is not adequately enforcing relevant environmental standards and mining regulations throughout South Africa. The SAHRC has found that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) often fails to hold mining companies accountable, "imposing few or no consequences for unlawful activities and therefore shifting the costs of pollution to local communities."Compliance with regulatory obligations, as well as monitoring and enforcement of such responsibilities, remains a crucial concern in the context of mining activities," says the SAHRC, noting how the DMR and other governmental agencies often do not respond to complaints filed against mines by community members.The report's authors describe how the lack of government action and oversight has also helped make the mining industry one of the least transparent industries in South Africa. Information that communities require to understand the impacts of mines and to hold mining companies accountable for harmful activities is often not publicly available. "Such information includes environmental authorisations, environmental management programs, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, mining rights, mining work programmes, social and labour plans, or compliance and enforcement information."The only way to access such information is through a request under South Africa’s access to information law, a procedure that the World Health Organisation has called 'seriously flawed' and which the DMR regularly flouts. In addition, mining companies and the government rarely consult meaningfully with communities during the mining approval process, resulting in uninformed and poor government and industry decisions that do not reflect community perspectives or have their support," says the report.The authors assert how the threats, attacks, and other forms of intimidation against community rights defenders and environmental groups have created an environment of fear "that prevents mining opponents from exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and undermines their ability to defend themselves from the threats of mining".In its November 2018 review of South Africa’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about “reports of human rights defenders, particularly those working to promote and defend the rights under the Covenant in the mining and environmental sectors, being threatened and harassed". It recommended that South Africa provide a safe and favourable environment for the work of human rights defenders to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights, including by "ensuring that all reported cases of intimidation, harassment, and violence against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice". Mining activist Mariette Liefferink, who made submissions to the UN committee, tells how it has become increasingly difficult to work as an environmental rights defender in South Africa.   "There is an overwhelming body of evidence of intimidation, whether it is by means of frontal attacks or more insidious attacks on activists."International and South African law requires South Africa to guarantee the rights of all people to life, security, freedoms of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and the rights to health and a healthy environment, say the authors."The attacks, threats, and obstacles to peaceful protest described in this report prevent many community activists in South Africa from exercising these rights to oppose or raise concerns about mines, in violation of South Africa’s obligations." 

Changing the narrative: The women who inspired the City Press team

City Press Reporters | 2019-08-09 05:00 Image source: Stock/Gallo images   As part of our jobs, journalists meet all sorts of people, from celebrities to politicians. Often, we walk away feeling dejected and despondent. But sometimes, the people we interview leave us feeling invigorated and inspired. These are some of them: Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, small business minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni at her swearing in as an MP by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: Cebile Ntuli Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s small business minister, once tried to persuade Nelson Mandela to get the ANC to negotiate that 16 be the voting age. She was 14 at the time. It was the 1990s, during the heady days of the Convention for a Democratic SA. President Cyril Ramaphosa was present during the interaction. The interaction with Madiba planted the seeds of “focus and determination” in Ntshavheni, who says these are the same character traits that, years later, defined the role she played as municipal manager of Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality in Limpopo – in particular, the lesson that “age, gender and race have no bearing on my ability to achieve my set targets despite the obstacles”. At age 42, Ntshavheni is one of the youngest ministers in the new Cabinet. One of her most pressing tasks is to ask Parliament to amend the Small Business Act to better deal with current issues facing the sector. This will entail updating the act to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access funding from state agencies and the banking sector, and to ensure that small businesses are paid within the prescribed 21 days. She says big business, too, ought to assist in creating access to markets for small traders and, as a measure of last resort, “if we need to set quotas, it should be so”. Ntshavheni believes that if small businesses are able to survive the first five years of being established and could grow to medium-sized businesses, job creation would boom. “To achieve this, we need to remove the red tape, improve their cash flow through paying them on time, help them access markets for their products, and upskill them for proper financial management.” Sufficient groundwork has been done, she says, and now it is time for implementation. – Setumo Stone Read: New minister knows all about small business Barbara Creecy, minister of forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs Barbara Creecy. Picture: The Daily Sun Barbara Creecy is the first to admit that she inherited a department that is in good shape. But she is in no doubt of the importance of her new job. SA’s latest minister of environment, forestry and fisheries took over the old environmental affairs department earlier this year, with two new entities having been added to its functions: forestry and fisheries. These previously fell under the department of agriculture. Creecy says: “Some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, fall under this portfolio. President Cyril Ramaphosa is committed to creating jobs and fighting poverty, and this portfolio will play a big role as it is responsible for the sustainability, conservation and management of our natural resources.” Creecy reiterates her intention to gain a deeper understanding of the departments in her ministry. “There has been a lot of focus on the ocean economy. This is not just to do with fishing but also with the fact that South Africa has a 2 500km coastline, which calls into question what our role is with regard to shipping.” She says forestry is a big commercial activity that can contribute immensely to economic growth and jobs, particularly in the neighbouring province of Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country. She says that while she is trying to learn fast so she can hit the ground running, she is also “fortunate, because even if I have never been at national government before, I have served at executive level in the provincial government for 15 years”. “I have had three diverse portfolios – in sports, education and finance. What that has taught me to do is ask: ‘How do I enter into a leadership space and quickly understand what the issues are, and how do I then look at starting to add value?’” – Setumo Stone Read: Barbara Creecy will build on work of predecessors as she inherits department in ‘good shape’ Pemmy Majodina, chief whip ANC new Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina. Picture: Misheck Makora ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina has made a name for herself among fashion watchers with her love of sheer, loud-coloured fabrics and big, brim-feathered hats. But her presence was impressive enough for the ANC’s national executive committee, which resolved that she would take up the top job of chief whip. Majodina grew up as an orphan, is a “ruralitarian” from Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, a preacher in the Methodist church, and mother to a young man named Mkhonto weSizwe, a name born out of a need to preserve history and also an ode to the “glorious army” she served in. In her first address to the media alongside ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Majodina boldly proclaimed that the new parliamentary caucus would not be “lame ducks”. The chief whip said she was making reference to the need for the ANC to revisit its understanding of its role of oversight in Parliament. “As members of the ANC we must understand that we have a judiciary with a clear mandate, we have an executive with a clear mandate and a legislature with a clear mandate. If you can internalise that then you will know your role as the legislature. “In the previous terms the ANC has been accused of asking darling questions and that we don’t hold the executive to account, and so on. The Constitution is very clear: there is a separation of powers. We as the legislature have a mandate to play an oversight role over the executive.” The fifth Parliament was a tumultuous one, with it standing accused of failing in holding to account former president Jacob Zuma. While emphasising the need for natural justice to be observed, Majodina is adamant that ANC members who serve in the executive and are found to be involved in wrongdoing will find no refuge in Parliament. “If a matter comes to Parliament it must come. There is no one higher than the law. If we swear in a member today and tomorrow there is a damning report that finds the member guilty, we are not going to be defending an individual. We are here to preserve the values of the ANC. Whoever is found to be on the wrong side of the law must face the music.” The chief whip will be making a comeback to Parliament, having served in the National Council of Provinces from 1999 to 2004 before making her way to the Eastern Cape government, where she was deployed in five different departments. She argues that this makes her no newcomer to the legislature. “My vision is to make ANC members in Parliament accountable to their constituencies first. We are going to play an oversight role by ensuring that every item committed to in the manifesto is implemented. “And if there is anything that cannot be done, it must be explained, because as we worked across the country, people were saying that when things change they are not informed.” – S’thembile Cele Read: New chief whip Pemmy Majodina plans to sebenza all the way Nompendulo Mkhatshwha, ANC member of Parliament Nompendulo Mkhatshwa pictured in 2016 when she was Wits SRC president. Picture: Thapelo Maphakel Well known for the iconic image showing her in an ANC doek, her fist in the air, which was shot at the height of the #FeesMustFall movement, activist Nompendulo Mkhatshwa (25) is now one of the 230 ANC MPs representing the party. Mkhatshwa rose to prominence in 2015, while studying for her BSc degree at Wits University. She was leader of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). She has also worked part-time as a researcher at Luthuli House. Mkhatshwa was short-listed at number 101 on the ANC’s national list of individuals to head to Parliament. She represents the future of the ANC in all respects – a young woman and a gender activist who is driven by the plight of the youth and women. Mkhatshwa has risen through the ranks of the ruling party, however, she has clearly not forgotten her roots. In her maiden speech in Parliament in June, she highlighted the struggles of incarcerated #FeesMustFall activists. Using her platform as an MP, Mkhatshwa reminded society that a nation could not be built while others are left behind academically and economically. Mkhatshwa said while the protests by students in 2015 and 2016 have resulted in great strides in the higher education space, it was concerning that some activists were still behind bars for fighting for free tertiary education. – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Naledi Chirwa, EFF MP Naledi Chirwa (EFF). Picture: Jaco Marais Student activist Naledi Chirwa (24) has rising in the ranks from serving as deputy president of the student representative council at Tshwane North College and fighting tirelessly to expose the debilitating circumstances of black people, black students and black women in the tertiary education space to now being counted among the EFF’s growing contingent in the National Assembly. Introduced to student politics in 2010, Chirwa rose to serve as the media and communications officer for the EFF Students Command. And has also been tireless in elevating the plight of jailed or student leaders facing criminal charges in to public discourse. In her maiden speech at the National Assembly in June, Chirwa further entrench her optimistic ideology that young people are not prepared to sit on the sidelines while decisions are being made about them. So powerful was Chirwa’s speech that even veteran parliamentarian Yunus Carrim asked: “What is this youth fundamentalism?” With youthful female leaders like Chirwa there is no doubt that young people, like generations before them, are making their mark for all to see.   – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Yugen Blakrok, hip-hop musician Yugen Blakrok who is feature on the Black Panther soundtrack that was released two weeks ago. Picture: Supplied Yugen Blakrok hails from the Queenstown, Eastern Cape but her work has propelled her to France, from where she spoke to #Trending earlier this year. Last year her star elevated to the heights of Hollywood when she appeared on the acclaimed Black Panther soundtrack. She featured on a track called Opps with US rapper and west coast representative Vince Staples, as well as Kendrick Lamar, who produced the album. The experience for her was something she could not have imagined before. “By featuring on a release that big and completely foreign to me, I learnt many valuable lessons. Vince is a funny dude and a great artist, live as well. I thoroughly enjoyed performing with him when he was in South Africa.” The two shared a stage at Zone 6 Venue in Soweto when Vince toured here last year. The streets had mixed reactions to the performance as the sound was perhaps not at the level it should’ve been. Opps is a street term referring to opponents or opposition and features Kendrick Lamar doing his usual nonsense on the hook. Thankfully he makes way for the two emcees. She is adamant that locally produced art can thrive internationally and she hopes that would motivate the local industry to treat our artists better and increase the chances of lucrative gains. She is inspired by artists who have managed to shape their own lane in the arts, those who go against the grain, much like she does. “I’m not one of those rappers that started at an early age. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do after I finished school.” She first appeared on a mixtape in 2004 and only after that did the idea that she could do this professionally dawn on her. “Before then, I was just playing with words.” – Phumlani S Langa Read: Get to know Yugen Blakrok, empress of the underground Mokgadi Mabela, honey producer Mokgadi Mabela, founder of Native Nosi. (Image supplied) Within African traditional medicine, honey has been used since time immemorial for its physical healing abilities, as well as for its symbolic and spiritual significance. However, not all honey runs rich with the aforementioned therapeutic properties. Approximately 60% of the honey on South African supermarket shelves is imported and irradiated to a point where nutritional benefits are negligible. Mokgadi Mabela, a third-generation beekeeper, harvests and sells pure, raw honey from environmentally sustainable hives placed on farms and in rural communities across Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Last year, she sold almost two tons of her multiaward-winning local honey brand Native Nosi – most of it via her online shop. She attributes her success to the fact that “customers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it has been produced”. “I place the hives, inspect the hives and harvest the honey. I can guarantee that my honey hasn’t been tampered with and our bees were not fed artificial nutrients. I can tell you exactly where the honey in every pot I produce comes from, as well as the conditions in that particular place.” When it comes to honey, local really is lekker. Mokgadi explains that “the closer the honey was produced to the location of your specific home, the more antibodies that pertain to your specific circumstances it will contain. The bees will have fed on the flowers in your environment and those are the ones from which the pollen allergens that affect you come.” Native Nosi honey is not only healthy, it is also delicious and diverse. Mokgadi says “Nosi is the Sotho word for honey bee. To me, Native Nosi represents pure, natural unadulterated honey products produced locally and in harmony, and it also represents continuity with my past and present. My grandfather and my father were beekeepers before me, and I hope that Native Nosi reflects a respect for their skills and wisdom, and reveals a love connection in everything we do. “Historically, bees have been associated with ancestral communication and, in my case, that connection is very direct. I hope my grandfather would be pleased that, even though I didn’t meet him, he was sowing the seed for what I do. Generations along the line, he would recognise my passion and commitment. I only know my grandfather through the stories that others tell, but all of those show him to be a man worthy of respect. It pleases me to honour that image. I want to respect his legacy. I want to make him proud.” – Anna Trapido Read: How Mokgadi Mabela built award-winning local honey brand Native Nosi Mariette Liefferink, mining activist Activist Mariette Liefferink Johannesburg’s mines have contaminated virtually everything in the city – from the water, to the air, to the ground. While some communities live on radioactive land, others struggle with water laden with heavy metals. And nobody knows this more than environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, who features in the documentary Jozi Gold directed by South African writer, award-winning journalist, playwright and film maker Sylvia Vollenhoven and award-winning Swedish director and journalist Fredrik Gertten. Liefferink is the kind of subject film makers dream of. The documentary’s opening shot sees her traipsing around an excavated field in sky-high heels, dressed to a tee in black tights, an orange blazer and plenty of jewellery. A soft-spoken tannie with a clipped Afrikaans accent and coiffed blonde hair, she tells us later that she used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, so she’s used to be being “severely disliked”. And dislike is a feeling she must drum up, as she chases down the CEOs of mining companies and holds the government department officials to account for exposing people to hazardous mining pollution. Liefferink says she sees herself as a marathon runner instead of a sprinter, because her work requires a great deal of stamina. In one scene, we watch her patiently phone a government department to lay a complaint about the discharge of untreated mine water into a river system. It’s the 10th time she’s phoning, and she’s again sent from pillar to post. She hangs up cordially, then blinks away tears. But hounding the government officials – too often unsuccessfully – is not her primary work. Liefferink believes that environmental and social justice are inextricably linked, and she works with communities to hold mining companies to account. In one case, she laid a criminal complaint at the local police against the former owner of the Blyvoor mine, for numerous environmental infractions committed between 2008 and this year. She didn’t think anything would come of it, but to her surprise, the state decided to prosecute the mining directors responsible. It’s a huge victory for the Blyvoor community, which has been dealing with the effects of mining pollution for years. A third of all the gold in human history was mined in Johannesburg, and it was what gave birth to the city. But now we’re dealing with an environmental crisis that few of us even know the extent of. – Grethe Kemp Read: Jozi Gold reveals shocking truths about mining pollution Justa Frans, tracker Justa Frans Making the choice to keep her Kwhe family traditions alive, 25-year-old Justa Frans went on a journey to learn the art of wildlife tracking. Now she’s the first formally accredited female tracker in the Karoo. The settlement of Platfontein, about 22km from Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, is home to the Kwhe and !Xun descendants of the San Namibian trackers. In the 60s they were first deployed by t he Portuguese Angolan military forces in Angola, and later in the 70s by the former SA Defence Force in the Namibian struggle for independence. After that war ended many chose to relocate to South Africa. Frans’ family was one such. This 25-year-old was determined to keep alive her Kwhe family traditions so she made a choice. She rejected the modern hip-hop culture burgeoning in Platfontein and is threatening the old folklore, storytelling, traditional music and healing dances. “I didn’t want to lose my culture,” she says. “I chose tracking.” Frans now works at the Karoo Lodge in the award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve located on 28 000 hectares of wilderness in the middle of the Eastern Cape. Last year she graduated from the Sact Tracker Academy, a training division of the SA College for Tourism in Tswalu, South Africa’s largest private game reserve in the Northern Cape. It’s a fully accredited training programme with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority and is the first tracker training school in South Africa to achieve this distinction. Frans graduated with a Level 3 tracking qualification that requires a 90% score. “I was taken into the bush. I thought it was just a classroom day. But it turned out to be the exam.” She is now working as an intern at Samara Reserve that also has a tracker academy on site, and hopes to be appointed to a permanent position. She is thrilled that Samara has recently become home to the first elephants and lions in the region for more than 170 years. “I can now track the Big Five.” She laughs as she says that guests are usually very surprised to have a woman tracker on their guided game drives and bush walks. “I love to see their faces!” Her ambition now is to get her driver’s licence and to teach other students, especially women, tracking skills. “Tracking is in my blood,” says Frans firmly. “I know that in the past it was only the men who did the tracking but now a woman can too.” She adds shyly: “Sometimes now the men are a bit jealous.” – Kate Turkington Read: Meet Justa Frans, the Karoo’s first formally accredited female tracker Portia Mavhungu, social innovator Portia Muvhungu Portia Mavhungu invented a device that allows those in wheelchairs to use the toilet without having to be lifted from their chair. Thirty-year-old Mavhungu, a Pretoria-based social entrepreneur, called her invention the Para Tube. She came up with the idea after being confined to a wheelchair for a while after an accident. “In 2011, I had an accident where I broke my pelvis. I was in the hospital for several weeks and in a wheelchair for the rest of the year. I fell into a depression over the loss of my independence. I needed my mother to lift me every time I needed to use the toilet. “I was in this situation for only a short time and thought about how hard it would be for those who experience this their whole lives.” With the Para Tube, the user pulls the centre part of the seat forward with a handle, and the middle seat flips up in the shape of a toilet. The user then defecates or urinates into a biodegradable bag in the opening. The bag locks in any smell and can then be disposed of in a similar way to a nappy. This invention is the first of its kind. Its efficiency and use of material offer greater comfort and ease than anything else available on the market. “The commode, which is our competitor, uses a bucket system. The commode seat is hard and people start sweating and develop sores, and their backs are hurt,” says Mavhungu. “With us, the seating is breathable material. It has PVC in the centre, so you’re able to wipe it. The seat is waterproof and the height of the seat protects the user’s lumbar spine.” The device will also be a great help in hospitals. “We have a shortage of nurses in South Africa,” says Mavhungu. “When you’re in a hospital, you have to wait for a nurse to lift you and place a steel bedpan underneath you. “I remember being in hospital with a broken pelvis and being taken off morphine. The nurses would put a bedpan underneath me and leave me, and I would just be shaking and in pain and waiting for the nurse to come back to take me off the bedpan.” Mavhungu says she didn’t decide to become an inventor, but always knew she wanted to help people. Her mother died from cancer in 2017, and she left her job to focus on developing the Para Tube. “What drives me is the passion. I know I’ve succeeded when someone has used the device and it’s helped them,” she says. – Grethe Kemp Read: This SA-invented device helps the disabled use the toilet Bongiwe Msomi, netball player  Netball Proteas captain playing for her home team Umgungundlovu during day four of the of the SPAR National Netball Championships at the University of Johannesburg sports grounds on Thursday. Picture: Palesa Dlamini/City Press Bongiwe Msomi (31) is the captain of the applause-deserving South African Netball Proteas team that reached the playoffs at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool for the first time in 24 years. Having started playing netball at the tender age of 16 Msomi said she could never have imagined herself playing for the national squad let alone leading the team. “Being selected to play for the national team has been the highlight of the 15 years I have been plaing netball. I have played overseas, in countries including Australia and England but the best thing for me, I can never take away the moment I was announced as a South African national player,” she said. Msomi said she never purposefully got in to the sport which now holds a special place not just in her heart but in her life. “Where I grew up soccer and netball were the major sports. Even when I tried things like athletics I realised I was nowhere close to being good. So I went to watch some neighbourhood friends in one of their netball training sessions one day and they were one player short and that is how I got into netball,” she said. The Proteas captain said she is glad that she took up the sport because it has a lot to offer young girls. She has been captain for more than three years and said she could not be prouder. “I am part of this amazing team and representing my country is humbling,” Msomi excitedly said. South Africa is set to host the next edition of the Netball World Cup, in Cape Town in 2023. – Palesa Dlamini

WATER

Fears of long term damage to SA's water supply as eutrophication strangles rivers and dams | IOL

Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life. Supplied Article by Sheree Bega The black, sewage-contaminated water that flows from the Rietspruit into the Loch Vaal is so polluted that even algae struggles to grow in its polluted depths. “All we get is black sewage sludge in areas where there’s less current,” explains Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the Rietspruit in Vanderbijlpark. But sightings of cyanobacteria blooms of toxic blue-green algae in the main Vaal River, caused by sewage, are becoming more frequent, particularly in summer, he says. That the Vaal is becoming eutrophic is a real concern, says water scientist Professor Anthony Turton. Eutrophication causes an overgrowth of algae that harms water quality, reduces oxygen, produces toxins, impacts river and marine life and affects food and human health. “Once a water body becomes eutrophic and cyanobacteria becomes established, no known method in SA has ever been able to reverse that process,” Turton explains. SA’s most eutrophic water is in Hartbeespoort Dam - the most studied of all systems. “Despite the very best scientists being unleashed on the problem, we have been unable to restore the system to its previous trophic status. With our current available knowledge, it’s safe to believe the Vaal is now becoming eutrophic and this is going to persist as the the new normal.” Eutrophication is the “logical outcome” of discharging high levels of phosphates and nitrates into river systems - natural nutrients that drive the production of plant biomass. “Biomass typically takes two forms in SA - the familiar problem of water hyacinth at Hartbeestpoort Dam and the cyanobacteria blooms of blue-green algae that the Vaal is now succumbing to.” The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has now released its draft inception report for its National Eutrophication Strategy. The strategy, with its 10-year horizon, seeks to provide guidance to the DWS and water sector at large “on strategies to avoid, reduce, mitigate and manage the effects of eutrophication on SA’s water resources”. It notes that the project was initially started in 2002 and “never completed” but was reinstated last year. “The issue of eutrophication had not received adequate attention, previously, which could have been one of the reasons the situation exacerbated even more,” reads the report. The Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) Policies and Strategies for SA in 2016 and 2017 "emphasised eutrophication as one of the country’s pressing water-quality challenges, along with salinisation, acid mine drainage, urban pollution and sedimentation”, it states. Eutrophication, says Turton, is an old problem that has now reached “catastrophic proportions” due mostly to the failure of the DWS in its role as national regulator. “DWS has allowed the Blue and Green Drop Reporting Standard to fall into dysfunction. This has allowed municipalities to act with impunity knowing they will never be sanctioned for non-compliance. The biggest culprit is the 824 wastewater treatment works (sewage plants) we have in every municipality. About 60% of them are now dysfunctional, so they collectively discharge over 5billion litres of sewage into our rivers daily. We draw our drinking water from those same rivers.” No bulk water provider in the country that takes water from a river and produces potable water uses technology capable of removing the toxic by-product of eutrophic water: microcystin. “This is a potent molecule that is released when the cyanobacteria is distressed. The molecule becomes parts of the water and cannot be filtered out from the water. “This means that South African citizens will increasingly be exposed to microcystin as long as our wastewater plants continue to fail. “Eutrophication is a slow onset disaster that will plague SA for the next generation. The manifestation will increasingly be in the form of low dose but long-term exposure to microcystin. The coronavirus has merely added a new complication, because of the potential for faecal-oral transmission through contaminated rivers.” Satellite work by the CSIR has already revealed that 60% of the country’s dams are eutrophic. Sightings of blue-green algae, caused by sewage, is becoming more frequent, especially in summer. Supplied In his 2015 paper, “Living with Eutrophication in SA: A review of realities and challenges”, scientist William Harding noted how the socio-economic well-being of SA is largely dependent on reservoir lakes, with between 41% and 76% of total storage eutrophic or hypertrophic. “This is in stark contrast to a claimed 5% made by the DWS. Data and information on the incidence and toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms are sparse, yet severe problems exist The most seriously impacted reservoirs are located in the economic heartland of SA, which has an extant regional water-quality crisis.” Many of SA’s rivers, reservoirs, and coastal lakes “no longer have the resilience to assimilate nutrients or sequestrate toxicants”, the paper found. “The responsible agency (DWS) urgently needs to establish a reservoir management programme that embraces remaining individual and institutional memory, integrates all available knowledge and scientific findings, prioritises needs and acquires those skills and resources necessary to meet what is likely to become a crippling legacy of inaction.” Eutrophication is a “big challenge and the situation is worsening”, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Melusi Thwala, who studies emerging environmental pollutants and water quality. “However, it is mostly dams/large impoundments that have historically faced such a challenge because they act as reservoirs in which pollutants such as nutrients can accumulate over time. “For instance, in excess of 40% of approximately 500 large impoundments are eutrophic and others exhibit a character of non-natural nutrient enrichment. “For river systems more and more cases are being observed but in smaller systems the rainy season can provide a dilution relief effect, but not so much in large systems such as the Vaal and Olifants rivers.” Their hard-working nature means that large river systems receive continuous and large nutrient inputs from various anthropogenic (human-caused) activities, with “municipal wastewater treatment works being a priority input source due to their declining capacity to treat wastewater”. “Simply put, the more human settlements, the more sewage waste is produced, sometimes exceeding the volumes that wastewater treatment works can handle. Agricultural and industrial activities also contribute nutrients into rivers,” Thwala says. Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, says the most important drivers of eutrophication are dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems and sewage spills over many years into receiving streams. “The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.” The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to by 2020, “identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”. “The above-mentioned actions must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy," she says. "Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the strategy impotent.” Eutrophication is a core priority of the Integrated National Water Resource Strategy and was identified as an issue of concern by the DWS in 2009. It was highlighted in the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (Phase 2) in March last year as an "unaddressed issue of concern". Tackling it is entirely reliant on activities performed within the DWS, catchment management agencies (CMAs), together with other institutions within the water sector, Liefferink says. “However, the lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to CMAs is a major issue of concern. The development of the strategy is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs become functional.” Eutrophication is a "crisis of unprecedented proportions", says Turton made all the more problematic because few people outside of the aquatic sciences and environmental health community "are aware that such a problem even exists”.

Vaal sewage spills into parts of Vereeniging as residents complain about it getting into their homes | IOL

Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging ...