NEWS & ANALYSIS

DA to question FState Premier on steps to mitigate water scarcity – Roy Jankielsohn

Party says agricultural sector is devastated by the current drought

DA to question Free State Premier on steps to mitigate water scarcity

28 October 2019

The DA will submit questions to the Free State Premier, Sisi Ntombela, to determine what, if any, plans are in place by the provincial government plans to mitigate the increasing scarcity of reliable and safe water in the Free State. Water scarcity remains a social, economic and political issue in the province.

The current drought, the lack of water flow from the Katse Dam and poor capacity to manage the water scarcity at municipal provincial levels are some of the reasons for the current water crisis in the Free State province.

Section 27 of the Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) states that: “Everyone has the right to have access to…sufficient food and water”. This right is being affected by poor institutional capacity and human capital in municipal and provincial institutions to manage the delivery of safe and secure water resources to residents of municipalities.

The drought and general water scarcity, together with the inability to accurately predict weather patterns due to climate change, has a devastating economic impact on the province. Dams, rivers, and streams are the main sources of freshwater resources and are negatively affected by the ineffective management and pollution of our water resources. Each one of these sustains ecosystems that support life forms that are crucial to a healthy environment. The agricultural sector, that is a large source of employment and economic activity in rural areas is devastated by the current drought. Farmers are unable to plant crops for harvesting in the next season due to the lack of rain.

While the legislative framework is in place, enforcement remains problematic. The ability  of the province to react to the water crisis is directly linked to the institutional capacity of provincial and municipal government institutions. In this respect both scarcity and pollution of water resources is playing a crucial role that is aggravated by the inability to manage existing water resources. The most pressing problems facing government are:

- Poor operation and maintenance of sewerage treatment systems that pollute rivers, ground water, dams, and streams. One of the main reasons for this is the mass installation of waterborne sewerage systems without ensuring the availability and adequate management of water resources.

- The wastage of water due to poor maintenance of infrastructure resulting in large physical losses that have to be carried by ratepayers.

- The lack of information regarding the metering of water by residents and authorities.

- The shortage of technical and management skills in municipalities necessary for the effective management of available water resources and sewerage systems.

The successful management of water resources will depend on the political will of politicians to put plans in place at all levels of government in the Free State to mitigate this crisis. Education and communication with residents is crucial to such plans. Water management in the Free State requires a co-ordinated effort from the Premier and her Executive Committee. The impact of water scarcity, and specifically the poor management of water resources has the potential to escalate political protests and conflict.

As the old adage goes; if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail!

Issued by Roy Jankielsohn, DA Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Legislature, 28 October 2019