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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.
PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WATER AND FORESTRY
30 April 2002
Chairperson: Ms Buyelwa Patience Sonjica (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry: CWSS 2002/3, Water Affairs and Forestry: Review of Budget 2002-2003 - Power Point Presentation
National Sanitation Programme: Presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee - Power Point Presentation
(Copies of the documents which are currently available in electronic format can be requested from Drew Crandall at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on their expenditure for 2002/2003. They broke the expenditure down by funds allocated to Provinces, functions of the expenditure, and programmes. Funds allocated for administration, water resource assessment, integrated water resource management, and water services were increased, whereas integrated water resource planning, water resource development, regional implementation, and forestry all experienced decreases. After the presentation by the department, the members were allowed to ask questions.
Mr Suleiman (ANC) asked if the alien vegetation removal program was going to continue. He asked if new jobs were being created and what the budget was for this program.
The department did not know the province distribution of funds for the year. They said they would break it down and follow up with the committee, as well as make the water and sanitation project allocations available to them.
Mr G. McIntosh (DP) asked for clarification on expenditure, as one page noted it as being R3.5 billion, and another at R2,463 Billion. He also remarked that the expenditure trend diagrams were encouraging, because there was a decrease in expenditure in some Provinces. He asked if there was going to be a decrease in the budget, and congratulated the department on spending so much of the budget. He asked why 60% of the forestry budget was going towards commercial forestry.
The department responded that the exchequer account also augmented the trading account, which changed the total expenditure. The difference in the two charts would augment the chequer account. The declining trend in the budget was a result of the poverty allocation fund for water in 2004 was being investigated. Furthermore, the chart did not include the likely budget trends, just the current ones. Because there was so much uncertainty about the trends, they chose not to include that portion. The department stated that commercial forestry was covered by the department of public enterprise.
A member noted the Lesotho highlands dam project was shown to be in excess of their expenditure, and asked why the costs of the dam were going up.
The department responded that they were trying to do what they could to keep the expenditure in balance, but the tariffs were increasing. They also stated that the increase in expenditure was not costing the tax payer anything. To explain the differences in funds allocated to various provinces, the department stated that not all projects are active in every province and that most of the work was done at the national level, where the capacity existed. In some places, there was no water resource infrastructure being built, so no budget was shown for those areas.
Mr J.F. Van Wyk (ANC) remarked that in 2001 there was under-spending at one stage, and asked what progress had been made in terms of expenditure.'
Ms B. Sonjica (ANC) stated that the Provinces had much less capacity than the national government.
A member remarked that he had heard stories of projects that stopped too soon and consequently failed.
The department responded that they would research the particular situation and follow-up with the committee.
Ms B. Sonjica (ANC) stated that there should be a legal obligation for people to finish their projects.
A member remarked that the cholera outbreaks caused the department to allocate funds for sanitation. He observed that there were toilets made to fight cholera, but the cultural habits of the people inhibited them from using them. The member asked what the department does about health education regarding the toilets and if the department work with other departments to spread health education? Where was the lack of capacity that handicapped the exercise? Furthermore, as departments built rural infrastructure, there was concern about vandalism of the infrastructure. The member wanted to know what could be done about this.
Ms B. Sonjica (ANC) responded that the transfer of schemes may be misunderstood by the municipalities because of their lack of capacity. She believed that the department should transfer the schemes slowly to make sure that they were well-understood by the municipalities.
The department responded that it was in the budget to teach communities the importance of toilet and sanitation use. Cultural beliefs did need to be discussed. He stated that since 1997, 60,000 toilets had been constructed, and that the capacity was increasing. The local government does not have enough capacity, but DWAF is providing them with support.
Mr L Mokoena (ANC) stated that there were serious problems with the working for water programs and suggested that the committee set aside time to talk about them.
Rev Chabaku (ANC) said that she had several concerns. First, this meeting was a joint presentation, and the portfolio committee had lots of time to understand the issues, but she had been given one day, which was very difficult for her. Second, she was concerned that nothing had been discussed about the wasting of water. The pipes provided by the Apartheid government were cheap and are consequently breaking, which is causing a lot of water to be wasted. Water tainted by industry was deforming cattle and poisoning vegetables. She also believed that the money given for providing toilets to people was miniscule. There needed to be an integrated approach to water and sanitation, because blacks are still using the bucket system. Furthermore, people in the towns are not being taught how to use water sustainably. She concluded that water was necessary for all forms of life and should be held sacred to everyone.
The department responded that the bucket system was abhorrent, but that to eradicate it completely would take five years in the Free State alone. There has been a movement to make water decisions more inclusive and representative. Instead of just white farmers, local government has been included in the decision making process. The farms were still primarily white-owned, and as a result, they still have a strong say in the decisions made. Regarding the failure of some projects, the department stated that the local government must eventually assume responsibility for the schemes. Funds needed to be increased at the local government level to increase capacity. It was stated that it was good that local government was complaining about their funds and capacity, because it demonstrated that they were interested, involved, and ready for more.
A member asked if a scheme was transferred from the department, who was to maintain it and who had the skills? He also recognized that it was written that in 1999/2000, R75 billion was allocated to sanitation, and asked how there could still be sanitation problems in South Africa. He continued to ask if there was less capacity at the provincial level, what was the capacity at the local level? He wanted to know what DWAF was doing to correct sanitation issues, and if there was a time period for solving these issues. He wanted to know who the stakeholders were if disadvantaged people were made aware of their involvement in the process. He concluded by asking if forests being transferred to the communities were at a level where they could be beneficial to the community.
The department corrected the R75 billion statistic to R75 million. It was also stated that the department was also working in conjunction with the department of agriculture on how to deal with the provision of water. It was also stated the ath department did not have anything in place to fight or prevent the vandalism of projects, but there were efforts to get communities to accept the schemes. With regards to indigenous forest management and the redistribution of plantations, the department pointed out that there were many indigenous plantation forests. There was protection mechanisms in place to protect indigenous forests and their roots, but understanding and capacity building needed to be increased.
Rev Chabaku (ANC) emphasized the fact that the department of water and forestry received an award for being the best of its kind in the world.
Mr M. Sabiya (IFP) wanted to know how the department was going to address the low capacity in the Eastern Cape to address cholera.
The department responded that they were looking to charge primarily the big water users. As for the capacity of the Eastern Cape, it was stated that capacity building takes time. One of the problems was that local government did not have billing systems in place.
Mr J. Van Wyk (ANC) wanted a status report on how well the battle against invasive alien vegetation was going. He wanted to know if it was a battle that could ever be won.
The Department responded that alien species are a persistent problem, as they continue to grow back. It was important that the areas of alien vegetation that were cleared did not exceed that which was able to be maintained. It was explained that many of the streams in the country were disappearing because of alien vegetation. He also stated that the clearing of alien vegetation was good for biodiversity. Finally, the departments said that they were working with other departments on how they could better solve the problem and keep it sustainable.
A member expressed her concerns over the affect of creating a dam on the Cape peninsula on the farmers. She wanted to know how far the plans had gone for this dam and if people of the Western coast had been advised and incorporated into the plan.
The department responded that the dam has been approved by the EIA. It was stated that if the current weather trend in Cape Town does not change, the people could be facing very serious problems. Finally, the department does not believe that the creating of the dam will harm anyone.
The member responded that she believed the dam was going to wreak havoc on the farming industry.
Ms B. Sonjica (ANC) said that the director general should be invited to brief the committee on the impact of the dam on farmers. She concluded by thanking the attending department members, as well as the committee, and the meeting was adjourned.
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