The Department of Water Affairs briefed Members on the progress report on the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies in South Africa. The legal, historical, regulatory and contextual backgrounds to their establishment were outlined, including the roles of the national Government and the Department.
The Department provided information on the original 19 proposed Water Management Areas and gave an update on the current levels of progress in their establishment. Of the original 19 Agencies proposed, two were operational and another six had been gazetted. The Department expanded on the oversight role it performed over the Agencies. The Department listed the achievements of the Department as it related to the Agencies. These included the completion of the Catchment Management strategies for the two established Catchment Management Agencies, the alignment of the catchment strategy plans with local municipalities development plans, the increase in public participation and the opportunity for Catchment Management Agencies to start generating revenue.
The Department provided the reasons for the delays in the establishment of the Catchment Management Agencies. These included the initiation of an Institutional Realignment and Reform project, a lack of institutional capacity and the financial and oversight responsibilities of the Department over the Agencies.
The Department highlighted the way forward including the finalisation of the numbers of Catchment Management Agencies to be established and the development of business plans for those Agencies.
Members asked whether the Catchment Management Agencies would be financially dependent on the Department or if they would generate their own revenue, requested clarity on the role of the water boards as related to the Agencies, and what punishment could be expected for commercial farmers who misused water resources. Members raised concern that rural communities who lived close to purpose built dams did not have access to those water sources, raising the issue of inequitable water supply. Members suggested that additional funds be made available by the National Treasury to facilitate the development of these areas. Members were concerned that the Catchment Management Agencies model seemed to emphasise the generation of revenue above the provision of services. Members expressed continued frustration at the lack of progress in delivering suitable water supplies to rural communities and suggested that the Department make use of the overflow of water from the rainy seasons. Members highlighted the concern among commercial farmers of obtaining licences for water rights.
Members were largely unsatisfied that adequate progress had been made in providing rural and poor communities a suitable water supply. Members suggested that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and Director-General of the Department of Water Affairs should appear before the Committee to address the issues raised by the Members.
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