Department of Water Affairs work in provinces, National Environmental Management Bill: Department Environmental Affairs briefing

Water and Sanitation

05 November 2013
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Water Affairs gave brief reports on some of the work it was undertaking in the provinces, to update Members before they went on their constituency work. The Gauteng report was a brief summary of status on the Sedibeng regional sewer scheme project implemented under the regional bulk infrastructure grant programme. The report from Kwazulu Natal touched on the status of water services in wards, 2, 10, and 18 of Umzimkhulu local and Shyamoya village of Kokstad local municipality within the Sisonke district municipality. The North West report was on status of the water in 52 villages under the Moses Kotane municipality. The Limpopo report covered the Limpopo waste and river cleanup programme, and the Eastern Cape report was about the status of Baviaansklop, Eastern Cape municipality sourcing water from the Western Cape private land owner, and the status of that matter. The Western Cape report focused on the status of Cederberg municipality. Members urged the Department of Water Affairs to attend to improving services in both areas mentioned in KwaZulu Natal, asking that both intermediate and long-term interventions be worked on. They further noted that some villages in North West still had no access to water, and urged the provincial government also in Limpopo to prioritise water projects. In general, the department was told also that action plans should be in place to address sewerage issues and upgrading of waste water treatment works.

The Department of Environmental Affairs focused on the latest changes to the National Environmental Management Bill, noting that references to the Minister and Department of Mineral Resources had been brought in line and updated, that the Bill sought to achieve alignment with the Minerals and Petroleum Resources development Amendment Act, and the Minister was empowered to delegate responsibilities to the Department of Mineral Resources. Specific references were made to the new sections 24L, dealing with alignment of environmental authorizations, which had resulted from discussions between the two affected departments, to 24 O, 43, 47C, where the reference to condonation was being removed, and 79A. The schedule set out the effective dates for amendment, which would be eighteen months after the date on which the new provisions relating to prospecting, mining, exploration and production and related activities came into operation. Any future changes to the Act would require the written agreement between the affected Ministers prior to submission to Parliament.
 

Meeting report

Department of Water Affairs briefing on provincial work
Ms Nthabiseng Fundakubi, Acting Chief Operations Officer, Department of Water Affairs, noted the Committee’s request that the Department of Water Affairs (DWA or the Department) brief the Committee on matters specific to its work in the provinces, to assist Members in their constituency work. She noted that officials from nine provinces were present to answer some of the questions asked by Members in the previous meeting, but reports on new matters had not yet been sent. She tendered apologies on behalf of the regional Heads of the provincial departments.

The Chairperson said that provinces should be serious and show greater competence when dealing with constituency work, or else there would be no progress, and more time would be wasted.  It was going to be difficult for members to engage with the Regional Heads of the provinces if not all the reports were available, especially new reports that contained new matters. However, he asked the provincial departments to briefly explain their reports.

Eastern Cape
Ms Portia Makhanya, Regional Head, Eastern Cape, Department of Water Affairs, said that the report of new issues on Eastern Cape progress would be sent to Members, as well as the report that outlined capital expenditure for the 2012/13 financial year. The status of Baviaanskloof Eastern Cape municipality was that the municipality was entitled to water on the private property and a license had been drawn up for insurance. The license required some technical work to determine the quantity of water available for sustainable use, as well as some detailed projections on other sources that would need to be developed to meet future demands. As part of the conditions of the Water License, a monitoring committee would be established, which would have oversight over the rate of abstraction, quantity, water levels and the sustainability of use. That would bring the property owner, the municipality, the Department of Water Affairs and provincial authorities together for harmonious working. There was originally a legal dispute over the servitude for operation and maintenance of the borehole infrastructure. That matter had since been amicably resolved. There was support to the municipality to increase its water security for a number of years, and DWA had advised it to commit to adequate planning for future growth at alternative water sources, which could positively impact the assurance of supply.

North West
Mr Lebogang Bogopa, Acting Regional Head, North West Province, said that Magalies Water provided bulk potable water for industrial and domestic use from its Vaalkop Water Treatment works, to towns of Rustenburg, Mogwase, Thabazimbi, Northam, and number of large platinum mines in Boshoek, Rustenburg and Northam areas. A number of rural and peri-urban villages, situated in the areas of jurisdiction of the Moses Kotane, Thabazimbi and Rustenburg local municipalities, were also supplied with potable water from the Vaalkop Water Treatment Works. Increased mining activities in the supply area of Vaalkop Water Treatment Works of Magalies Water between Brits and Vaalkop, as well as associated growth of the population to support those developments, had resulted in an increased demand on bulk potable water supply for industrial and domestic use. The original Pilanesberg Scheme included the addition of 60 Mld treatment plant capacity, 70 Mld distribution capacity, additional 80 Mld reservoir capacity, and 105 km pipelines. Due to further growth in demand for industrial and domestic use, the delayed implementation of the Pilansberg Scheme associated with the global economic downturn and other pending statutory approvals resulted in a larger regional Pilanesberg Bulk Water Supply Scheme with economic benefits of scale to all industrial and domestic consumers.

Limpopo
Ms Lucy Kobe, Acting Regional Head, Limpopo, said that she did not know anything about theft, but that water management was one of the major problems experienced within Limpopo province around water resources. Due to permitted landfill sites and proper waste management practices in the province, communities had developed habits of disposing of waste in open areas such as quarries, ditches and water resources. Most disposed of containers that usually carried substances that were detrimental to both surface and groundwater. Community habits were a cause for concern. It was surprising that a community of one thousand people produced close to two thousand nappies being disposed of as waste, and since they could neither be thrown in pits nor burnt, they were disposed of in nearby rivers and streams, which were the source of drinking water. In September 2013, the Department of Water Affairs undertook a theatre play trying to raise awareness, at a cost of R180 000.00. This had already stated to bear fruit, which justified the replication of the exercise throughout the region. The “Adopt a River” programme was also piloted in Vhembe district, where 100 women, who were paid a stipend, volunteered to remove the waste from the tributaries of Luvuvhu River as part of cleaning the water environment. More than R2.5 million was used, and volunteer work was continuing, but there was no further funding.

Gauteng
Mr Hennie Smit, Regional Head, Gauteng province, said that Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme (SRSS) was one of the catalytic projects under Special Infrastructure Programme (SIP) 18 on water and sanitation infrastructure, and it was thus driven at national level, together with the Premier and Provincial government. A three tier governance infrastructure had been established to oversee progress at the political, technical and implementation level. All the municipalities in the area were involved and an implementation protocol was in place. In the long term, SRSS would serve the Midvaal and Emfuleni local municipalities within the Sedibeng District Municipalities, as well as the Southern parts of Johannesburg. In the short to medium term the SRSS entailed the upgrading of both Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) and Meyerton WWTW, by 100MLL/d and 15 ML/d respectively. Both works were located in the Sedibeng District Municipality. The sanitation infrastructure of Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works was old and it resulted in high maintenance costs and frequent failures. It was currently operating above its full hydraulic capacity of 100MI/d. The total project cost estimate for the upgrading of the Sebokeng works, to a capacity of 200MI/day, was R1.123 million. To date, no problems with it had been encountered.  

KwaZulu Natal
Mr Ashley Starkey, Regional Head, Kwazulu Natal, said that communities around Umzimkhulu and Shyamoya Village of Kokstad local municipality were visited, and potential water resources for intermediate level intervention were identified. Shyamoya village received water for a limited period of time, as the reservoir ran dry quickly. However, there had been 290 new units established in Shyamoya village which had increased the strain on the supply system. In Insekeni/Nodondo ward 2, the community had no access to water tanks and installed water tanks were not filled. However, the Insenkeni Rudimentary Scheme was not able to meet the demand due to a number of illegal connections. The Kokstad areas required upgrading of the pumping main and upgrading the pump capacity so that an increased volume of water could be abstracted from the Kempdale Dam on the Mzintlava River.

Western Cape
Mr Rashad Khan, Regional Head, Western Cape, said that the regional head had written to Cederberg Municipality to draw attention to the proceedings of the Portfolio Committee, and copied the letter to Provincial Treasury to establish the financial health and viability of the municipality. The Department of Water Affairs was required to abide by National Treasury rules that only the “Social Component” of the infrastructure might be supported, and the co-funding component should be financed by revenue stream generated from commercial users. The contribution of the Cedarberg Municipality for projects was R12 million. Cederberg Municipality looked forward to growth and development, but faced constraints of al low economic base. Appropriate measures had been taken to provide water security through reliable, renewable source, and the Regional Head would continue to provide support through its programme, while as the same time ensuring that the municipality took on greater responsibility for the sustainable operation and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Discussion
Mr F Rogers (DA) noted that the water services in ward 2, 10, and 18 of Umzimkhulu local and Shyamoya village of Kokstad municipality within the Sisonke district municipality had to be improved, and the communities should have access to water. The intermediate and long term intervention measures should be implemented.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) noted that some villages in North West had no access to water and they needed to be supplied with water, and therefore urged the Department of Water Affairs to roll out water projects to all villages.

Ms M Wenger (DA) suggested that there should be action plans in place to address the sewerage issues in the short, medium and long term. The plan should entail the upgrading of the existing Waste Water Treatment Works and the implementation of Sedibeng regional sewerage scheme.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) noted that Limpopo had to put a plan to address the water problems and the Department should prioritise water projects.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was entering a constituency period and all provinces should do the right thing at the right time.  If the Committee requested reports from the provinces, the reports should be sent to members in advance. It was suggested that someone in the Department should have time to look into all the reports produced by the provinces. All provinces should sent short, brief and correct reports to the committee so that the committee would help accordingly. Constituency issues did not necessarily require long reports, but those that addressed the main issues. In the 2014 year, the department would receive more questions.

National Environmental Management Bill: Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefing
Mr Alf Wills, Acting Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, said that the definition of the word “community” in the National Environmental Management Amendment Bill (NEMA) bill was widening up the definition to include non affected parties who were interested. There was a need for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to consult the Department of Energy on that issue. Therefore, DEA recommended that the definition of “community” was aligned with the definition of the community in Mineral and Petroleum Development Resources Development Act (MPRDA). Section 4 explained the Ministerial responsibility for environmental matters relating to prospecting, mining, and exploration or production area. The Department recommended that there be consistency with the listing of prospecting, exploration, and mining and production area.  The changes in clause 2(a), to replace the reference to the former name of “Minerals and Energy” with “Mineral Resources” was logical. However there was a challenge with mentioning of the area for which the rights had been applied for, as if the area was not known or had never been defined.

Mr Wills said that clause 24L, dealing with alignment of environmental authorizations, was an approach that would allow the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to issue integrated authorizations, and it was welcomed, and had resulted from the discussions between DEA and DMR. However, he noted that the reference to  “and an authority empowered under a specific environmental management act” was against the spirit of the agreement and integration.

The new section 24O(3) stated that a state department consulted in terms of subsection (2) should submit comment within 30 to 40 days from the date on which the Minister requested.

The section in relation to appeals, section 43(1) stated that any person may appeal to the Minister against a decision taken by any person acting under a power delegated by the Minister under the Act or a specific environmental management act, and this was being clarified to noted that this would be in respect of power delegated by the Minister responsible for mineral resources, in respect of the implementation of the environmental management function, in a prospecting, mining, exploration or production area.

Mr Wills said that the new section 47C(c) related to the extension of time periods for mining activity decision. The DEA was concerned that the provision for condonation would effectively be approving the delays in advance, and therefore suggested that the reference to condonation should be removed.

The new section 79A(1) stated that the Minister responsible for mineral resources might delegate a function entrusted to him or her in terms of the Act to the Director-General of the Department responsible for mineral resources, or any official or to the holder of a specific post in the department responsible for mineral resources.

In conclusion, Mr Wills said that the principal NEMA Act was being amended to the extent specified in the schedule, with effect from a date 18 months after the date on which the provisions relating to prospecting, mining, exploration and production and related activities came into operation, in terms of clause 12(2).

He further noted that any future amendment to the provisions relating to prospecting, mining, exploration and production activities in the Act or the Bill, once passed, should be subject to firstly, a prior written agreement by the Ministers responsible for environmental affairs and mineral resources, and secondly, Parliament’s approval.

The meeting was adjourned
 

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