In the first part of the workshop (which PMG did not attend), the Minister gave a briefing around the work of the Ministry and Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (the Department). The Committee discussed the Minister's briefing, raising questions on several aspects of the work of the Ministry and Department. Members reflected on the role of local government in terms of the provision of water to communities, and were concerned about the lack of accountability between national, provincial and local government structures when it came to dealing with service delivery problems. A member was concerned that the Department's organogram was overpopulated and unnecessarily layered, which she felt created the possibility of problems vanishing within the structures that had been instituted to address water problems, and one structure failing to accept accountability. It was suggested that the Minister should reexamine the structures to achieve maximum efficiency. There was brief debate on the issue of where fishing rights would be located, whether at the Department of Agriculture. Forestry and Fisheries, or the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs. The Committee also discussed the Department's capacity with respect to enforcement of in-shore monitoring, and research and development in ocean and marine science and technology. Another Member enquired how the national strategy for sustainable development would be implemented, considering that this was a role that had cross-cutting implications that would require government's co-ordinating abilities.
Presenters from the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) gave presentations on water resources management, pollution and waste, the response to climate change and the considerations around ecosystems. The mandate of the CSIR was to undertake multi-disciplinary research, technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development, to improve the quality of life of South Africans. Some of its research overlapped with that done by tertiary institutions and industry. Its research and development structure, and its work were described. The WRC noted that the provision of sufficient and clean water was one of the most basic humanitarian goals set out in the Millennium Development Goals. It described the water cycle, the distribution of water, the implications of the uneven geographical spread, and trends and challenges in the water sector. The use of water for growth and development, society, the economy, health, the environment, agriculture, mining, industry and domestic use were described. WRC also gave a presentation on water linked ecosystems. WRC noted that strategic decisions would need to be made around water management in South Africa, as the country had limited water resources, increasing demand from all sectors, and was making inefficient use of the currently available water. The three main factors to be taken into account were economic efficiency, environmental sustainability, and social equity. Water management internally stretched across various departments, and there was also the need for consultation with the neighbouring countries with whom water was shared.
In respect of health and environmental issues, the presenters outlined the “Brown Agenda” and noted the need to strike a balance between the development of a country, and the way it would deal with waste, including changing the nature of waste, producing less waste, developing policies to prevent recyclables reaching waste dumps, and recognising and mainstreaming recycling. Climate change issues required a multi-sectoral, inter-departmental and holistic approach that could address multiple issues at once. Although long-term emission-reduction goals had been set, there were few medium-term goals and objectives. The different stress factors leading to water scarcity were described as rainfall, over-exploitation, water quality, increased demand and infrastructure, as well as the fact that South Africa ran a high risk because of dependency on natural resources. There needed to be a change in the mindset on water use, both at government and citizen level. A further presentation described the different services that fresh water ecosystems could provide, noting that the loss of biodiversity was linked to a reduction in ecosystem services, which in turn threatened human health. This decline was a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and it often made more sense to retain existing ecosystems rather than try to change an area’s use. The impact of climate change, direct human modification, cumulative effects of practices, climate, inefficient or destructive resource use, fragmented jurisdictional boundaries, and coastal planning on marine ecosystems was discussed. There was a need to shift to management of entire ecosystems, rather than concentrating on one area only.
Members’ questions related to what projects of the Department would benefit people, how access and training for fishery businesses could be provided, the process for determining the ecological reserves of South Africa’s rivers, and whether the current system for the allocation of water rights and the granting of licences was legally justifiable. Several Members expressed concerns around lack of access to water in dams where communities were living, scarcity of clean water in the rural areas, dam conversions, and whether the community was involved in setting the Department’s strategic objectives. The Department’s relationship with the Water Boards was questioned, and the position of Namakwa Water Board was examined.
The Committee noted that there was a need to translate the Department’s appreciation of the issues into real action, which required a budget and real capacity. The ongoing issues around responsibility for water supply would need further discussion.
Meeting reportBriefing by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Ms Buyelwa Sonjica
[PMG did not attend this part of the proceedings, but the attached document is a transcript of the briefing given by the Minister]
A Member from the ANC wondered, in view of the shortage of time, whether it would be appropriate for members to ask questions.
Ms M Manana (ANC) thought that it would be fair, considering that this was a workshop, to allow those who had any comments on the Minister's input an opportunity to express their views.
The Chairperson, who had just joined the meeting at that point, agreed with Ms Manana, and added that the Minister had raised a number of issues that elicited questions from the members.
Members were then asked to make some brief comments.
Ms Manana (ANC) commented that in one of the previous sessions when the Committee had been listening to the Water Boards, there had been some areas of overlap identified between the work of the national and local government structures. The Committee had resolved that at some point it would be important for both Ministers and both Portfolio Committees concerned with these portfolios to jointly consider these issues, especially when it came to municipalities and their functions.
The Minister responded by thanking the members for bringing some of these problems to her attention in their contributions and questions. This would empower her and sensitise her towards the areas that required immediate attention.
On the issue of an overlap between local government and the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA or the Department), Minister Sonjica submitted that there was always co-operation whenever there was a matter that overlapped across two portfolios and there would always be attempts to co-ordinate work, which would be identified during a joint session. The Minister did not know what areas had been identified but would be guided by the Committee.
Ms Manana commented that the Committee was anxious to see changes in the lives of many people, particularly in the rural areas where there was no water. She commented that she would have liked to have seen a complete organogram showing the entire structure of the Department, as she had some concerns about it. There seemed to be quite a lot of bureaucracy, as reflected by several layers of structure that all had authority to do one or the other activity. She doubted that a structure that was so heavily populated would be effective in terms of delivery. It would be easy for one of those structures, if it was failing in its own role, to hide behind the others, because of the denseness of the structure. She suggested that perhaps there was a need for the Minister to make an in-depth review of the structure. A Department such as this needed people that were actually going to be deployed into particular areas in the different provinces to deal with issues that had been raised by the water boards or that had been identified thus far. Otherwise these problems would again vanish into the structure, and the Committee would be continuously burdened with the same issues.
The Minister responded that because this was a new Ministry there was a need to first understand the mandate of the Ministry. Once that mandate was understood, this would help in an analysis of the capacity that would be needed to implement this mandate. She did not think that the structure of the Department was over populated, although certain parts of it might be under or over-populated. It could well be that, for instance, climate change was a burning issue, and the Minister had to think about what to do about this issue through structures in the Department, or think about where the “Green Scorpions” environmental team had to be located. These were examples of the kinds of questions to be considered. As yet, there had not been detailed examination of the structures and plans, but there had been consideration of the rationale of the reconfiguration of the organogram. She agreed in principle to reconsider that and revert with an answer after this process had been completed.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) commented that technical skills needed to be developed in municipalities to capacitate these municipalities to deliver services. It was not clear whether some local authorities were aware of their responsibilities. In certain instances they would point to the National Department as the responsible authority for dealing with water problems, only to find that they themselves actually had the authority to deal with the problems.
The Minister responded that technical skills were one of the priorities that the Department needed to look at. She was not sure whether there was enough funding, but it certainly was an issue requiring urgent attention. It was important to come up with a recruitment strategy for those people whose essential skills were needed. She was not sure whether there was an appreciation in the tertiary institutions of the kind of skills required by the South African economy and marketplace. Perhaps it was time to approach the universities, in order to develop a recruitment process by which Government channelled and in some way influenced tertiary intake and essential skills outputs required. At the moment this was up to individual portfolios, and not Government, although she conceded that Government did need to address the issues to inform the recruitment strategies being employed by tertiary institutions.
Mr G Morgan (DA) remarked that it was apparent that the Department had a massive area of responsibility, perhaps more than any other in South Africa. He had sat on the Portfolio Committee dealing with environmental affairs for almost five years, and he could say that almost everything in the environment cluster was very well run and efficient. However, an ongoing problem had to do with the management of marine resources, which was not improving, on the contrary was worsening. He was worried whether the existing structures were appropriate, given that they seemed unable to stem the poaching of marine resources, and thereby the loss of taxable income for the State, quite apart from the sustainability issues. Many of the coastal environments would not provide a sustainable income to coastal communities in future. Many functions were not being performed. Research capacity was weaker than ever before and there were a lot of skills being lost in the sector. Monitoring in-shore was not very good. There were strong indications that the situation of endangered marine life was worsening, as indicated by recently released statistics. The typical response by government was through cross-cutting measures.
The Minister responded that Mr Morgan was highlighting weaknesses within the system. This matter had been raised at the launch of the World Oceans Day. The issue of capacity to monitor what was happening in the seas, and issues such as poaching of marine life, and research capacity, even relating to South Africa’s project in the Antarctic, were important. The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs would be working with the Department of Science and Technology, since research and development (R&D) resided within that latter Department. It was important to look for resources for R&D, since, in the absence of those resources very little would happen, and then the departments would lose skilled researchers, either because they returned to universities or took up employment abroad. This did not mean, however, that the departments should not continue to probe into these matters and to remain alive to the issues.
Ms Pam Yako, Director-General: Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, responded that there were real challenges in terms of the Department’s enforcement capacity. The issue was to find a balance between what DWEA could do, as against what the criminal justice system was supposed to provide. That was where the real crux of the matter lay. There was data to indicate that DWEA had managed to control some of the poaching. However there were problems with West Coast rock lobster and perlemoen, and this was attributed to issues of accessibility, the high market values of the species involved, as well as the large number of participants in those fisheries. The Department would have to look, therefore, at a resource management strategy that also linked to an enforcement strategy in the long term.
Ms Yako also commented on the issue of scientific capacity, by saying that in the past the Department had only had a directorate that had been responsible for research. Currently it had at least managed to increase this capacity and now had three directorates that were focused on doing research. That establishment would be further grown not only by working with educational institutions, but also in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology.
Mr Morgan asked where and how the DWEA would deal with the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which had been on the Department's agenda for a long time. Considering how massive a responsibility this portfolio entailed, it was, in his view, critical that the Department should not be solely responsible for managing every environmental issue. It was also the responsibility of other departments such as Trade and Industry, and Transport. All of them had environmental mandates, but the co-ordinating abilities of the State were probably not good enough to ensure that the aimed-for sustainable development was actually achieved. He asked whether this was not something that could be aligned to Minister Trevor Manuel in the sense that it could be a function carried out by the Presidency, with an over-arching view of the Ministers involved.
The Minister was not sure how to respond to the question of the location for the National Strategy for Sustainable Development. She thought that this was a matter that probably had to be determined by the Presidency. At the moment she had not had time to look at the document, as she had been preoccupied with issues of climate change. However if it straddled various sectors then its location could probably not be within her Department only. If it was a matter specific to the environment, then DWEA might have to deal with it. She would have to look carefully at the content and act on the basis of what was contained therein, so that she could appreciate what needed to be done.
Ms Yako agreed with the Minister that this was a debatable issue. However, environmental management was cross cutting in nature. If the National Framework for Sustainable Development was transferred to the Presidency, then all the other functions in the environment, such as climate change- which in itself also required co-ordination across sectors- would be affected. The National Framework for Sustainable Development would relate to planning and the issues that had to be taken into account to ensure sustainability, whilst also balancing this with the country's economic and development priorities and environmental sustainability. The DWEA was therefore a department of cross cutting functions, and this was a matter that would require further thought.
Mr Z Luyenge (ANC) commented that the Water Act of 1998 mandated the Department to ensure the provision of water to all communities in South Africa. The government had taken over an already dilapidated infrastructure and this was made more difficult by the fact that the local authorities would not be able to rise to what the Constitution wanted them to do. This Department had to ensure that the provision of water was done in a manner that was correct. People did not want taps, they wanted water, and it became problematic if there was no water coming out of the taps.
The Minister responded to the issue of municipalities and their relationship with DWEA in the main, by saying that the environmental aspect had a concurrent function. The water function, inasmuch as it did not have a concurrent function, had been extended through regional offices that were closer to municipalities and were more accessible than the national offices. However, she agreed with the point that whatever happened, the ultimate responsibility lay with DWEA when it came to ensuring the supply of water. The Department had to hold accountable any other person, including local government, who was not delivering on this mandate. The Department appreciated the problems of capacity in local government, and worked very closely with it. At times the problems exceeded the budget that DWEA had, and it would have to come to Parliament for assistance.
Mr Luyenge also wanted to bring to the attention of the Chairperson that the functions of the Water Boards were seemingly urban-biased. Mthatha was an example of how Boards were concentrated in urban areas, to the detriment of rural areas.
The Chairperson commented that the purpose of this workshop was to get answers on questions that Members were not clear about. During the presentations by the different Water Boards, there had been many issues raised by the Committee, especially around service delivery. She could not recall any instance where the Department had taken responsibility for this. Instead, the Department tended always to say that this was the responsibility of local government. Arising from what was said, the Committee had discovered that there was conflict between certain legislation, particularly between the local government legislation and the various statutes relating to water affairs.
The Chairperson submitted that there was also another issue concerning fishing rights. It was not clear who was responsible for fishing rights – whether this was the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, or the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs. She had taken it upon herself to invite the Minister in the Presidency, Mr Collins Chabane, to brief her on this issue. She had invited members of the study group because they had been curious to know who was doing what in terms of fishing rights. The Chairperson of the Agriculture Portfolio Committee had made it clear that the Water Affairs Portfolio had nothing to do with fisheries. Mr Chabane, however, had said that the responsibility had been given to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to indicate where Parliament would exercise its oversight responsibility. Members were still awaiting feedback from this Minister. Members of this new Portfolio Committee needed to understand their area of oversight over the Department of Water Affairs and Environment.
Ms Manana asked the Minister to give clarity on the issue of fisheries as it related to DWEA. She pointed out that there seemed to be functions across the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Water and Environmental Affairs, with the first dealing with ocean based fisheries and the latter with fisheries in dams and rivers. She wanted to know where the line was drawn between the different fisheries.
The Minister responded to the questions posed by both Ms Manana and the Chairperson. She commented that she found Minister Chabane’s comment strange, because in the process of identifying areas of potential conflict and areas where departments needed to synergise and align, her Ministry had sat down with the Minister of Agriculture, who clearly refused fishing rights in her portfolio. The Minister was at a loss why this issue was resurfacing. By her own understanding, marine coastal management was an environmental function. Whether one could separate fishing rights from this function was something on which she would need to be further guided by those dealing with the issues. The allocation of fishing rights had to do with consumption, and it could not exist on its own, but had to be accompanied by conservation. She asked how that balance would be kept if the functions were to be separated, as depletion of reserves must intrinsically be linked to the extent of consumption. It seemed to be ideal that everything be migrated to the one Department, as opposed to separating it out.
Mr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General, DWEA, agreed with the Minister that, based on their understanding of what happened worldwide, it was not desirable to have fragmented management of any aspect, as this would compromise the total management capacity.
The Minister added that the last she had heard of this matter was the fact that a proclamation had already been made and this meant that the function remained with her Department.
The Minister asked for identification of the conflicting legislation referred to by the Chairperson, through the Parliamentary Research Unit, so that the Committee could then direct the Department what it felt was needed, such as amendment or alignment of the legislation.
The Minister then briefed the Committee on the issue of climate change. She noted that it seemed that South Africa was on course, and there had been a strong commitment that had come from the G8 summit leaders that the negotiations had to continue, and that an outcome must be arrived at in Copenhagen. The point had been made that this was a meeting where the G8 leaders had come up with a statement that would give confidence to the world, by assuring it that all were committed and something was being done. The developing countries had not gone to the G8 to negotiate and agree on certain positions, but had gone to deal with a declaration, which was a political statement, that the G8 leaders were making on their behalf. South Africa was not happy that there had been no base line given by the developed countries, and they had refused to give a base line. Firstly, if a base line was not given then the emissions could not be quantified. Secondly, if there was no base line the question was how to ensure that the developed countries honored their commitments. The media had indicated that there was a rejection, but she did not agree, since this had not been a negotiating forum.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Overview of Natural Resources and the Environment
The Chairperson said that it was important for the new Committee to hear all information presented by both the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Water Research Commission, in order to become more familiar with the issues relating to water and environmental affairs in the country.
Ms Linda Godfrey: Senior Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, began by introducing the mandate of the CSIR to the Committee, to provide an overview of their activities around water affairs and the environment. The CSIR had been constituted as a Council by legislation in 1945. It was one of the leading scientific and technology research and implementation organisations in Africa. The CSIR undertook directed and multi-disciplinary research, technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development, to improve the quality of life of South Africans. In terms of their mandate around research conducted in other areas, there was some degree of overlap between research done by tertiary education institutions and research conducted by industry. The organisation received approximately 30% to 40% of its funding from the Department of Science and Technology.
The presentation provided an outline of the CSIR's R&D structure, and its work in regard to coasts and oceans, ecosystems, forestry, pollution and waste, resource-based sustainable development, water resources, emerging Strategic Initiatives, research towards sustainable development, natural resource base outcomes, global change outcomes and people and environmental outcomes. (See attached presentation for full details)
Water Research Commission (WRC): Overview of Water Issues
Dr Rivka Kfir, Chief Executive Officer, Water Research Commission, gave an overview of water issues. Water was the source of all life on earth, and all living organisms depended on it, so that it was the most valuable fluid on the planet. However, it was a limited and a scarce resource which had social and economic benefits whose value could not be replaced by other energy sources. There was no replacement to clean, drinkable water, and the provision of sufficient and clean water was one of the most basic humanitarian goals set out in the Millennium Development Goals. This presentation gave details about the Water Cycle, in terms of the distribution of water as a resource in the oceans, ice caps and glaciers, and how much water resided in ground water sources such as lakes and rivers. There was an uneven distribution of water geographically, and this had several implications for the availability of water to communities. The Committee was informed of the global trends in the water sector, challenges to water management at the beginning of the 21st century, the water situation in developing countries, the current water scenario in terms of demand and supply, the distribution of rainfall in South Africa, the legislative framework in place to protect water resources in South Africa, South Africa's rural realities in terms of livelihoods, water management and how to cope with water scarcity, and the topics of Water for Growth and Development, Water and Society, Water and the Economy, Water and Health, Water and the Environment, the relationship between water and use, Water and Agriculture, Water and Domestic use, Water and Mining; Water use in Industry; and effluent management. (See attached presentation for full details)
Water-linked Ecosystems: Presentation by Water Research Commission
A further presentation by Dr Stanley Liphadzi: Research Manager, Water Research Commission, dealt with the topic of water linked ecosystems, following on from what had been briefly presented by Dr Kfir. A definition of water-linked ecosystems was tabled for the Committee, and the legislative framework to protect such ecosystems was explained. The benefits of water linked ecosystems in terms of conservation, and as a cost effective way of reducing the impact of environmental degradation as a result of commercial and industrial activities was outlined.
Water Resources Management: Presentation by Water Research Commission
Ms Eiman Karar, Director: Water Research Management, Water Research Commission, presented an overview of the water services in South Africa, and issues arising from related subjects. She noted that strategic decisions would need to be made around water management in South Africa, as the country had limited water resources, increasing demand from all sectors, and was making inefficient use of the currently available water. Thus, questions had to be asked about how to allocate and use water, and three main factors were to be considered: namely, economic efficiency, which involved decisions on how to achieve the optimum social and economic benefit, environmental sustainability, which demanded protection of resources, balanced against development of the country, and social equity, which would need to deal with redress and allocation reform. The management of water in South Africa would have to be inter-departmental, involving different spheres and levels of government. Also, because South Africa shared water sources with a number of neighbouring countries (including Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland), plans for cooperation with these countries would be necessary.
Pollution and Waste: Presentation by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Ms Linda Godfrey of CSIR, presented on the so-called “Brown Agenda” – health-threatening environmental issues, including lack of safe water, inadequate sanitation, poor waste management, and the resultant environmental pollution. The main issue was how to break the link between the development of a country, and the way it would deal with waste. Thus, in order to be able to keep developing, South Africa needed to find ways to produce less waste, and change the nature of the waste that was generated, for instance by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Many people lived on dumpsites, and obtained a livelihood from recyclables that were dumped there. There was a need to develop a policy both to stop those recyclables from reaching the dumpsite in the first place, and a need to bring into the mainstream those who obtained a living from recycling. Thus, the three key focus areas were waste treatment and utilisation; waste and society; and environmental health.
Climate Change: Presentation by CSIR
Dr Emma Archer, Principal Climate Change scientist, CSIR, presented on the issue of climate change in Southern Africa. She noted that warming was likely across the whole African continent during this century, with increased average, minimum and maximum temperatures, and less rainfall. Up until now, the usual approach had been for each sector to draft its own response strategy, but there was now a need for a multi-sectoral, inter-departmental and holistic approach that could address multiple issues at once. Although long-term emission-reduction goals had been set, there were few medium-term goals and objectives by which governments could be held accountable.
Climate Change and the Water Sector: Presentation by WRC
Mr Chris Moseki, Research Manager: Climate Change, WRC, discussed the different stressors that led to water scarcity in South Africa. The first aspect was minimal rainfall, but other factors included overexploitation; impacts on the quality of available water; increased demands; and infrastructure. South Africa was a climate risk environment, because of its dependency on natural resources. There were also many groups in the country who had minimal ability to cope with climate change, due to lack of adaptation options. Merely building more or bigger catchment areas or reservoirs would not solve the problem as there needed to be a change in the mindset on water use, both at government and citizen level.
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Presentation by CSIR
Ms Pumza Ntshotsho, Researcher, CSIR, provided an overview of the different services that ecosystems provided, such as fresh water, and pointed out how the loss of biodiversity was linked to a reduction in ecosystem services and a consequent threat to human well-being. Across the board, there was currently a decline in the status of ecosystem services, and this degradation was a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She also noted that it often made more economic sense to maintain an existing ecosystem, rather than trying to convert it into another type of ecosystem, for instance to maintain a natural area rather than try to convert it to a human settlement.
Marine Ecosystems: Presentation by CSIR
Dr Pedro Monteiro, an oceonagrapher from CSIR, discussed the two main issues that impacted on global change, which were climate change; and direct human modification. However, these were also impacted upon by other factors, including the cumulative consequences of past practices, highly variable climate, inefficient or destructive resource use, and fragmented jurisdictional boundaries. The way the usage of coastal areas was planned also played a role. In the future, it would be necessary to shift from managing a single marine stock, such as simply perlemoen or simply sardines, to managing entire ecosystems or regions, which would include all the stock that live in that area, such as fish, birds and other marine animals.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) noted that there was a difference between water and the environment, and also pointed out that the Committee needed to translate these concepts into reality. He asked how the Department would go about creating projects that were beneficial to people and communities. He also asked for an overview of which projects were currently beneficial to communities, besides recycling and greening.
Mr Skosana asked, with regard to fisheries, whether only white people had skills to run these fisheries, and how access could be provided to those who had not yet learned the required skills, or had not yet had the opportunity to run their own fisheries. Mr Skosana asked whether the Committee would be given an outline of all the legislation in place relating to this.
Ms Pam Yako, Director-General, Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, noted that the allocation of medium-term fishing rights was done in 2001; and the issuing of long-term rights was carried out in 2005. These were benchmarked on the basis of transformation targets. After two or three years, a review process was started, and this was currently under way. This review would assess compliance to various targets and performance measures for the long-term rights allocations. Once the report had been concluded, the Executive would have to consider any necessary interventions that were within the law or legally defensible. Training was not provided along with rights allocation, although this had often been included as part of capacity-development for rights holders. The aim was for continued equity in respect of running the business. She therefore noted that the Department had relied on fishing companies to provide capacity-development for their partners. However, the previous Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs had raised the issue of investigating support interventions for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the fishing sector, including the viability of cooperation as a model. This involved looking at similar models from around the world; and trying to establish what kind of support could be provided to the emerging sector in the fishing industry. However, she also noted that South Africa was bound by certain international protocols, and did not subsidise its sectors.
In terms of skills-development, Ms Yako stated that there were programmes geared towards staff working in the marine science field, and these had made good progress in terms of the knowledge base of the institution. However, the shortage of skills had not yet been overcome.
Mr G Morgan (DA) asked about the process for determining the ecological reserves of South Africa’s rivers; as well as the system for the allocation of water rights and the granting of licences. These needed to be based on research showing how much water was available in the system; and how much could be allocated to the different sectors such as mining, industry, and human consumption. He therefore asked if the current methods used in South Africa were sophisticated enough; and whether there was a legal defence that applied to these ecological reserves.
Sizwe Mkhize, Deputy Director-General, Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, stated that this question needed to be linked with questions on legislation, as the two were linked. He pointed out that if a water system ran dry, this could be for a number of reasons, including climate change or illegal water usage. Thus it was not always a case of incorrectly measuring the reserves. He also noted that the South African legislation on this issue could further complicate the matter. The legislation made provision for people to challenge the issuing of licences for water reserves by municipalities.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) noted that the rural areas, and their residents, often suffered from a scarcity of clean water; and many ended up drinking from polluted water sources. She therefore asked what the Committee was doing in order to help people from rural areas to have clean water. She asked whether water tanks would be more viable, and, if so, where these would come from. Certain dams were also not servicing the communities in which they were based. She asked if these dams were merely white elephants; and requested further information on so that she could give answers to those in her constituency.
Ms Yako stated that in South Africa the concept of single-purpose dams had long been an issue. In the past, dams were developed specifically to provide for certain industries, and there was now a need to re-allocate the water supplies. Feasibility research was currently being conducted into how to convert these dams for the use of people in the area. This research was sometimes led by provincial governments, and other times by the Department. A substantial amount of money was required for these conversions, and the difficulty lay in accessing funding sources. She raised the possibility of drilling boreholes to deal with the problem in the short-term, but noted that there was a move towards the construction of multi-purpose dams in the future.
The Chairperson asked the Director-General to find out what was happening at the Jozini Dam, as this was in Ms Zikalala’s constituency, and she wanted to be able to give answers to this community during her next visit.
Mr Z Luyenge (ANC) asked about how this information would benefit the previously marginalised individuals whom the Members of this committee represented. He asked specifically what was being done to assist the poor; and stressed the need for these people to understand the function of the Department. He also asked if there had been any community involvement in drawing up the Department’s strategic objectives.
Ms Yako noted a number of environmental projects in which the Department was involved through the Expanded Public Works Programme. The focus was on those who were currently employed, but there was a limit to how many the Department could actually employ. Short-term employment was related to empowerment; and also involved Water Affairs and other land conservation or rehabilitation programmes. There were opportunities to do more, but this hinged on what municipalities had in terms of budget to allocate to waste management, air quality measures and other issues.
The Chairperson noted that the presenters from the Department seemed to know what was expected of them, but that there was a need to translate this knowledge into actions. The Department must do what had been planned; and also ensure that it had the capacity to translate these plans into action. Thus, the budget must reflect what would be done. The Committee also needed to know what is expected of its Members in terms of oversight. The Chairperson noted that the relationship between the Department and the different Water Boards was also important; although it seemed that not all Boards received the same support from the Department. She stated that there was a need for binding legislation which would ensure consistent support from the Department to all its Boards.
Ms Yako acknowledged that, in relation to Water Boards, there could a lot of improvement in terms of oversight and responsibility. However, she also noted that this was a two-way process, and was not solely the responsibility of the Department. Currently, an institutional realignment project was under way, which would look at the current number of water boards, how effective they were, whether they were able to sustain themselves, and which ones were no longer viable. A number were not sustainable due to the decline of mining in their districts. Thus, decisions had to be made about how many water boards to have.
The Chairperson then asked for clarity about whether there was a need to continue to support the Namakwa Water Board, whether it still existed, and whether the Department was carrying out oversight of this Board.
Ms Yako stated that studies had shown that this Water Board was not economically viable. She had visited the Board, but there were a number of issues. Only one person was working there, but that person was supported by a company that had been contracted by the Board. The Board’s financial state meant that it could not even pay basic bills, such as its Eskom account. She also noted that the process of disestablishing a water board would still need to be discussed.
Dr Mkhize added that this was made more complicated by the various technical and institutional problems arising. The Water Board had to transport water almost 200kms over mountains in order to pipe it to the community, and the pipes often burst as a result of pressure build-up, making the piping of the water very expensive. The Water Board therefore battled to generate the revenue even to cover its costs. While the municipality was aware of these challenges, it was reluctant to take over operations, as it would then have to take over the bills.
Ms Yako pointed out that the issue of access had been dealt with earlier in the day, but noted that there was an ongoing issue around responsibility for water supply. Although the Department was not necessarily the water service authority, it still did play a role in terms of water access, for example, in terms of water regulation, support to municipalities, and support at policy level. She stated that in the past year, resources from the budget had been identified to assist municipalities.
Dr Emma Archer responded to a comment from Mr Morgan that the presentations were all very general in nature, noting that the presenters also had been frustrated by the short time allowed to give their presentations; it would have been preferable to allow them more time to give a better impression of the research and policy that was being implemented on all these issues.
The workshop was adjourned.
- Water issues: Ministerial briefing & Committee workshop [Part 1]
- Water and Environmental Affairs Strategic Planning Workshop of the Committee [Part 1]
- Water hearings: Water Research Commission, Council for Scientific & Industrial Research [Part 1]
- Water and Environmental Affairs Strategic Planning Workshop of the Committee [Part 1]
- Water and Environmental Affairs Strategic Planning Workshop of the Committee [Part 2]
- Water hearings: Water Research Commission, Council for Scientific & Industrial Research [Part 2]
- Water issues: Ministerial briefing & Committee workshop [Part 2]
- Water and Environmental Affairs Strategic Planning Workshop of the Committee [Part 2]
- Water Research Commission: Water- Linked Ecosystems
- Ministerial Briefing on the work of the Ministry and Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
- Water Research Commission: Climate Change & Water presentation
- CSIR : Pollution and Waste – the “Brown Agenda”
- Estuarine, Coastal & Oceans Systems & Global Change
- Overview of CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment
- Climate Change in Southern Africa
- CSIR: Biodiversity and Ecosystems presentation
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting