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We are still hard at work scrutinising CVs and hope to compile our interview short-list soon and contact successful candidates.

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SAWC logo27 November 2017

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) today launched a report which exposes the dysfunction and institutional paralysis in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The report is almost entirely based on publicly accessible information including Parliamentary Questions and Answers, Portfolio Committee meeting reports, information from access to information (PAIA) requests and media articles. However, importantly, it presents it in a single document which paints a particularly bleak picture for SA’s water institutions and hence water security.

The report reveals deeply concerning institutional and governance challenges in the DWS. It lays bare a situation of institutional paralysis within the department and associated deterioration in financial management, service delivery, policy coherence and performance. In brief, the central challenges facing the department, outlined in the report, relate to the following:

o Considerable human resource and organisational challenges including the suspension of senior managers, high staff turnover and vacancy rates and intensified capacity constraints;

o Serious financial mismanagement related to over-expenditure, accruals and failure to pay contractors and corresponding escalation of debt, overdraft of the Water Trading Entity and debt owed to the Reserve Bank, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, poor revenue collection and corruption allegations;

o Considerable policy and legislative uncertainty related to inter alia the proposed Water Master Plan, proposed Water and Sanitation Bill and the proposed National Water Resources and Services and Sanitation Strategy;

o Highly worrying steps to undermine or destroy established water institutions, including plans to consolidate nine catchment management agencies into a single national agency and plans to discontinue key statutory bodies like the Water Tribunal and Water Boards;

o Failure to publish Blue Drop (water quality) and Green Drop (waste water treatment) reports since 2013. The Blue Drop-Green Drop reports are arguably the only comprehensive assessments available to the public and water service authorities on whether water and wastewater treatment plants are functioning and complying with water quality standards. The absence of such assessments has considerable implications for management, operation, risk mitigation, remedial action and refurbishment plans related to treatment plants - and hence water safety and water quality;

o Deterioration in wastewater treatment works and infrastructure due to lack of maintenance and investment, with initial findings of the 2014 Green Drop report indicating that 212 waste water treatment plants fall within a “Critical Risk” categorisation. These plants pose serious risks of completely untreated sewage entering rivers, streams and dams. This has dire impacts on water quality and human health including enhancing the spread of diseases such as e-coli, hepatitis A and diarrhoea;

o Significant deficiencies in compliance monitoring and enforcement. Notably, DWS only has 35 compliance and enforcement officials for the whole country, and has never published a specific water compliance and enforcement report. The 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report highlights that DWS has completely failed to undertake meaningful enforcement action against offenders. In 2017/2017, of 321 facilities inspected, 76 of which were found to require enforcement action, DWS has had zero (0) convictions for criminal offences. Despite widespread non-compliance, DWS has only suspended one water use licence since 1 January 2008.

The SAWC intends presenting the report to the Portfolio Committee on Water & Sanitation this week. The report can be downloaded here.

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is network of more than 20 community-based organisations, non-government organisations and trade-unions active in promoting the wise, equitable and just use, protection and provision of water. It was formed in the lead up to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. At its most recent Biennial General Meeting (BGM), SAWC urgently convened a task team to respond to the state of the water sector in general and the institutional and governance challenges in DWS in particular. In response, the task team seeks to build a broader coalition of support to respond to these challenges, engage with decision-makers and portfolio committee members, raise awareness of the state of the water sector and water institutions and, if necessary, institute legal action.

 

As a first step, SAWC recently addressed a letter to the Minister to strongly object to the decision to consolidate the established and planned CMAs into a single national agency. The letter highlighted that this decision “would fly in face of existing national water policy that provide for the decentralisation of and public participation in water governance” and hence called for the Minister to “keep the nine CMAs intact”. SAWC has received no response to this call.

 

For comment on the State of the Department of Water and Sanitation report, please contact:

  •   Samson Mokoena, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 016 933 9079 / 084 291 8510

  •   Mariette Liefferink, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or ) 011 465 6910 / 073 231 4893

  •   Thabo Lusithi, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 448 2881

  •   Saul Roux, Centre for Environmental Rights, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 447 1647 / 082 777 9904

  •   Bryan Ashe, KZN Water Caucus, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 031 261 6524 / 082 652 1533

  •   December Ndhlovu, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 082 601 3664

Quiz your Councillor SThe local government elections have come and gone.

Your municipal or metro council has the serious task of managing service provision

How well they pay attention to the environmental justice issues that affect you and your community will depend, in part, on your active participation as a citizen.

What is the role of local authorities
when it comes to decisions that impact on your environment?

false solutions cover"Energy for Sustainable Development - How false solutions to climate change undermine equity, energy security and poverty reduction" (3.7MB)

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has just published this new report highlighting the dangers of responding to climate change with "false solutions". The report is a collaborative effort with input from a range of individuals and organisations from Africa, latin America and Asia, including EMG.

Living Land - AvontuurEMG's work with small-scale rooibos farmers in the Northern Cape has been highlighted in a chapter of a new book "Living Land" co-published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Tudor Rose for the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (2010-2020).

Vulnerability to land degradation on a global scale is driven by a combination of a changing climate and patterns of land use. Addressing climate change requires co-operation at a global scale. Ensuring appropriate land use requires local action.

According to the UNCCD, the new book is a powerful outreach tool for sensitizing the public about land degradation problems and the mobilizing efforts that are taking place around the world.

You can access the digital version of "Living Land" via this link to the publisher's website.

Squeaking in just before the end of 2015, our Annual Report for 2014 (1.1MB).
We promise to get next year's report published sooner!  Watch this space.

 ticketOffice

(This is no ordinary ticket office. Its where you get
tickets for Goedverwacht's annual Snoek en Patat Fees,
an event not to be missed!)

 

Civil-Society on FrackingOn 18 June 2015, EMG co-hosted a public seminar on fracking. The event took place at Alternative Information and Development Centre, a Cape Town based NGO active on social and economic justice. An award-winning new documentary produced by Alliance Earth, The High Cost of Cheap Gas, was screened as a catalyst for discussion. Guiding the discussion were a panel of representatives from EMG, Alliance Earth, Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).

 

The seminar was well supported by civil society and a diversity of voices contributed to an interesting discussion. Issues of major concern for South African civil society, surfacing from the documentary and discussion, include sourcing of water, water pollution, impact on livelihoods, agriculture and tourism, jobs, development options, climate change, alternative energy provision and the role of South African companies in the region.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on fracking recently launched by the SA government was welcomed. It has been long-called for. The stated terms of reference for the SEA, however, appear highly problematic from both a decision-making and participation perspective (see www.seasgd.csir.co.za).

The assumption behind the SEA is that should sufficient gas be found in the exploration stage, fracking will go ahead. It is not apparent that a no-go option is being considered; nor are alternative sources of energy clearly identified as a strategic option for investigation by the SEA. This begs the question of how strategic the SEA will be. In regards to the issuing of licences by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to explore for shale gas, it was felt that licences should at the very least only be issued after the SEA has been completed. Issuing licences before the potential impacts have been fully researched casts the SEA in a token light.

The provision for public participation in the SEA also appears weak. The webiste states that the only way in which public concerns will be considered is through formal comments on the written documents developed by SEA specialists. This effectively excludes almost every South African, and certainly biases participation away from the people most likely to be affected. The flipside to this is that the nature of this opposition to fracking provides an important opportunity for South African civil society to organise across economic, racial and cultural divides.

Short of amending the scope and process of the SEA to address these shortcomings and to better reflect the Principles outlined in Chaper 1 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), the discussion led to a civil call for reinstatement of the moratorium on shale gas exploration, at least until after the outcomes of the SEA have been realised to support such a decision.

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