The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) with its affiliate UASA today (28 September 2010) presented its merits and well researched findings of its Section 77 application to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) with regards to the state of water security in South Africa.
FEDUSA, UASA and its panel of water experts offered their presentations to NEDLAC (comprising of Organised Labour; Business and Government) in which they highlighted the devastating effects of acid mine drainage (AMD), the lack of provision of potable water and the general quality of waste water.
The representatives agreed that a FEDUSA/Government joint-steering committee would be formed under the auspices of NEDLAC to investigate FEDUSA’s demands. Government requested that they be given 30 days to consult internally where after NEDLAC will convene the first meeting of the steering committee.
During the presentations and discussion FEDUSA/UASA showed particular concern about the apparent ‘dragging of feet’ by the authorities in charge of the country’s water, who have shown little haste in addressing the water crisis that threatens the health and safety of humans, animals and agriculture alike.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa about 2.9 million people die of HIV/Aids annually but more alarming is the fact that about 3.4 million people die of the consumption of unsafe water and sanitation (2002 figures). UASA emphasised it was alarmed about how much money government spends on HIV/Aids education and awareness, which is indeed necessary, but the same cannot be said about the water issue at hand.
Dr Jo Barnes, an epidemiologist at the faculty of Health Sciences at Stellenbosch, warned about the deadly health hazards of polluted streams, rivers and dams, and said that it is possible to trace pollution to its source where it should be rectified. University
“Our people are seriously threatened by the water crisis we face, but it’s the very young, the unborn babies, pregnant women and children, the elderly and the frail who are the most vulnerable to the lack of sanitation and clean water. The contamination of water and water-borne diseases are causing havoc in the poor communities resulting in serious health risks amongst our people. We need a commitment from all South Africans to seriously and visibly act fast to address the issue that are now threatening the lives of the poor,” Dr Barnes said.
After FEDUSA/UASA presented their case to NEDLAC, the following process suggestion was made to Government as a way forward:
1. That by using the Blue Drop/Green Drop report of DWAF, identify non-functioning drinking water and wastewater plants and place them under intensive care under the supervision and control of a national project manager (coordinator) whose job it will be to do the following:
a) To draw up a national programme of work and a budget to restore the entire infrastructure
b) National government to cut the red tape and approve budget as a matter of urgency
c) Government to agree to a fast tracked procurement process
d) National project manager could e.g be the DBSA who has to report to a special committee to be appointed.
2. Staffing to be attended to in a parallel process
a) The Water Institute should be approached to explore the possibility of fast tracking training of staff
3. Hand over ‘restored’ to plants to the respective municipalities, on condition that correct staff has been appointed and trained
4. National Project Manager to supervise ‘restored’ plants for a year after hand-over.
5. The development and implementation of a national educational programme to build awareness of the importance of H20 4 Life;
6. That a decision on a sustainable solution for the AMD threat be fast –tracked.
“We trust and hope that the Section 77 Notice Application will be effective in bringing awareness to the water problem that we face in South Africa and we can find solutions to the problem effectively and efficiently”, said FEDUSA General Secretary Dennis George.
*Click [here] to visit our Water for Life website for further details regarding the water crisis.