Minister must appoint task team to address water infrastructure backlog
I will today write to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa requesting her to set up an intergovernmental task team to address the increasing water shortages being experienced in a number of provinces due to a lack of proper infrastructure maintenance.
Reports reveal that not only are Mafikeng and Nelspruit experiencing water shortages due to dilapidated water infrastructure, but the crisis will soon spread to Bloemfontein and other municipalities if it is not attended to (see BDLive report).
The intergovernmental task team must assess the severity of the matter, prioritise critical areas that must receive immediate attention, and formulate a strategy to prevent further water shortages.
The team should comprise officials from the Departments of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Treasury, Public Works and Water Affairs.
Although just over R2 billion had been allocated to water infrastructure maintenance and development in the 2011/12 financial year, Minister Molewa's appeal to the private sector for additional funding to the tune of R25 billion at the World Water Forum in Marseille last year indicates that there is a serious problem.
It is extremely concerning that the annual backlogs in water infrastructure maintenance amount to R2.66 billion a year. We therefore welcome the additional allocations made by Minister Pravin Gordhan in his budget speech for municipal water infrastructure, in particular the R4.3 billion allocated to a new grant, to be administered by the Department of Water Affairs, which will provide for water treatment, distribution, demand management and support for rural municipalities.
It is critical that a sufficient proportion of this grant be prioritised for the maintenance of dilapidated infrastructure.
I will also be asking Parliamentary questions to determine whether the department has conducted an audit of the current state of our water infrastructure to enable it to measure the damage and propose solutions.
Further water shortages could have a devastating impact on the health and livelihood of our people, not to mention the detrimental effects on the economy.
Minister Molewa must make it a priority to ensure that our water infrastructure is properly maintained so that all South Africans can have access to clean, fresh water.
Statement issued by Marti Wenger MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, March 6 2013
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