The Portfolio Committee was told that South Africa had done well in terms of the Millennium Development Goals water related target.
This came to the fore when the Department of Water and Sanitation made a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation on four Outcomes that relate to water and sanitation and on its progress on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
Many success factors contributed to the achievement of a positive outcome as a result of its sound policies, legislation and dedicated funding and programmes to ensure the maintenance and supply of bulk water resources.
These Outcomes focused on efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure designed to support the medium and long term economic and social objectives. This economic infrastructure is a precondition for providing basic services like water and needs to be robust and extensive in order to meet industrial and household needs.
Furthermore, the Outcomes spoke of vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities that would be contributing to food security for all. It is envisaged that in 2030 there would be integrated rural areas where residents would be economically active. Achieving this vision would require leadership on land reform, communal tenure security, infrastructure and financial and technical support to farmers.
Moreover, the Outcomes look at responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government systems. It is envisioned by 2050 South Africa would no longer have poverty traps in rural areas and urban townships.
In addition, the Outcomes are about protecting and enhancing our environmental assets and natural resources. It is believed that by 2030 the transition of South Africa to an environmentally sustainable, climate change resilient, low-carbon economy and just society would be well underway.
Members wanted clarity on the progress taking place around the Umzimvubu Dam, and an explanation on the finalisation of climate change measures regarding water; asked the Department to comment on its dilapidated water infrastructure that is leading to water losses, and enquired if a study has been conducted in the area of hydraulic fracking so as to make sure ground water is not going to be affected; asked the Department to explain where the main problems are regarding water licenses; enquired why the Department is not imposing heavy fines on mines that are using water illegally because they have got money to pay the fines; and questioned why three provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and North West – have benefited in the first two quarters of the 2014/15 on water supply to rural areas at the expense of the other provinces.
Presentation by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS)
Mr Anil Singh, DWS Deputy Director-General: Regulation and Compliance, presented to the Committee four Outcome programmes of the Department. These were Outcomes 6, 7, 9 and 10. He also touched on the role, response and actions of the Department with regard to the Millennium Development Goals.
The programme focused on the efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure that was designed to support the medium and long term economic and social objectives of the country. This Outcome is coordinated by the Department of Public Enterprises. The National Infrastructure Plan includes water and sanitation infrastructure which provides for a 10-year plan to address the estimated backlog of adequate water to supply 1, 4 million households and 2, 1 million households to basic sanitation. The project involves the provision of sustainable supply of water to meet social needs and support economic growth as well as to improve the management of water infrastructure.
This programme was looking at the development of a comprehensive investment programme for water resource development, bulk-water supply and wastewater management, assessing requirements to achieve universal access and prioritise a new dam on the Umzimvubu River. It also sought to finalise the future institutional arrangements for the management of water resources. The Institutional Review would be done by December of 2015. A policy decision was taken to reduce Water Management Areas from 19 to 9 and establish 9 corresponding Catchment Management Agencies.
Regarding the establishment of regional water and wastewater utilities to support municipalities, the Minister has almost finalised realignment of water boards by merging Pelladrift and former Botshelo with Sedibeng Water. The only province left is the Western Cape where there is a need to decide on the future expansion of Overberg Water. The plan is expected to be approved by Cabinet by December of 2015. 100% of municipalities would be covered by approved functional regional utilities which would be created by 2019.
A review of existing water allocations is being carried out in areas where new users are seeking access but current users already take more than can be reliably provided. Engagements have been finalised and a submission is being made for the gazette of the Preliminary Allocation Schedule. 100% issuance of licences in Mhlathuze was expected to be finalised in March 2015.
Concerning additional water supplies for the Lephalale area, 39 km of the 43 km pipeline had been laid. Improved progress in pipe laying was noticeable during the month of September 2014. The project is plus minus 18 months behind schedule due to construction delays including the impact from heavy rains experienced. Repairs are 99% complete.
This programme spoke about vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities contributing to food security for all. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was the coordinator for this Outcome. Against a set target of 1740 for 2014/15, 783 rain water harvesting tanks had been installed for food gardening and other household productive uses. The beneficiaries were now able to collect water during rainy periods and use it to irrigate during drier periods.
755 Resource Poor Farmers against a target of 642 for 2014/15 had been given financial support to enhance access to water. It was projected that for 2015/16 the number would decrease to 692.
During the first two quarters of 2014/15 three provinces had benefited on water supply to rural areas. The beneficiaries were located at Emnambithi and Indaka Local Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal; at Syathemba, Joe Morolong and Thembelihle Local Municipalities in Northern Cape; and at Kagisano Molopo Local Municipality in North West. The total number of beneficiaries was standing at 114 653. Eight projects were still to be completed.
Its focus was on responsive accountable, effective and efficient local government system. It was coordinated by the Departments of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs.
Norms and standards on access to water and sanitation had been published in the Government Gazette 22355. During the 2013 policy approval by Cabinet, it was indicated that a basic water service equals yard access to water. It is projected that a R100 billion only would be needed for water supply infrastructure excluding water security. Norms for MTSF were in the process of being confirmed.
On the mapping of sector services status, the Department had already initiated this task with 24 district municipalities. A comprehensive baseline and spatial perspective have been developed. Challenges have been identified in terms of continuous functional assessments and information systems duplication.
Regarding sector monitoring and information system, an extensive integrated sector system is well advanced. The monitoring, reporting and strategic assessment is in design phase. Challenges in terms of continuous functional assessment and a gap in sanitation information, monitoring and reporting have been identified.
Concerning audit water and sanitation challenges and remedy strategy, more than 13 areas have already been audited including the Municipal Strategic Self-Assessment. Various provincial audits are underway. An extended audit system development has been initiated. An intervention framework is being developed.
Key issues identified in this programme were around the need for alignment and coordination. The sector needed an improved mandate to oversee other programmes. The focus should be on sustained and reliable services because water is a never ending business. A need to invest in improved planning, administration, project management, operations and maintenance, financial management and life cycle management has been identified. There is also a need to address accountability, business culture and service quality, and to ensure effective programme and project management. This programme required resource oversight and management.
This programme was about protecting and enhancing environmental assets and natural resources. It envisions that by 2030 the transition of South Africa to an environmentally sustainable, climate change resilient, low carbon economy and just society would be underway.
46 mines against an annual target of 120 had been monitored for non-compliance in accordance with water licence conditions. The major challenge here was on capacity. There were competing demands on the same resources by both the compliance and enforcement sections.
Against a target of 40% the Department achieved 4% on the level of compliance of mines in accordance with the national Water Act. Some of the mines visited were not authorised to use water. About 50% of the audit reports have not been finalised. Outstanding reports would be finalised by end of December 2014.
A number of sector adaptation strategies and plans have been completed. Five sectors are expected to be finalised by 2019. These would be in Water, Agricultural and commercial forestry, Health, Biodiversity and ecosystems and Human Settlements.
In terms of reducing vulnerability and risks associated with climate change impacts, the National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper has been approved by the Cabinet. Climate Change Response for 5 key sectors would be implemented in 2019. A sector specific draft adaptation climate change strategy is out for consultation. The water sector climate change adaptation strategy would be finalised in March 2015. Climate change mitigation measures are being implemented through different programmes including the water conservation and demand management initiatives.
On the response and performance of South Africa to the Millennium Development Goals, Mr Singh informed the Committee that access to basic water supply infrastructure has improved from 59% in 1994 to 95% in March 2014. The millennium development target of halving the backlog has already been achieved in 2005. It is estimated that the 2015 South African achievement would be 96% access to water supply infrastructure.
As international norms for access to services is much lower than the RDP standard of South Africa, the South African MDG Committee decided to use and present comparable figures for South Africa in the report.
South Africa has done well in terms of the Millennium Development Goals water related target. Many success factors contributed to the achievement of a positive outcome, but the same ones became risk and failure factors in terms of programme management, leadership and coordination.
The key lesson learnt was the need to focus on sustainable and reliable services as the outcome, with associated interventions and governance, and not only on once-off infrastructure delivery. There is also a need to deal with water services as a business and the application of life cycle and value chain approaches and principles.
He concluded that the Millennium Development Goals process is now in its final phase and the South African closure report is being drafted and would be submitted to Cabinet by April/May 2015. The Department is part of the drafting team and member of the National Coordinating Committee. The format of the report would be a closure report as well as a strategic report to serve as a bridging document linking the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals programme and process.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee adopted 4 sets of minutes and the Madibeng Report for adoption.
Minutes of the 14 October 2014
Mr L Basson (DA) moved for the adoption of minutes.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) seconded the motion.
Minutes of the 15 October 2014
Ms J Maluleke (ANC) expressed concern that the highlights of the issues raised during the engagement of the Committee with the Department of Water and Sanitation, Water Research Commission and Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority on their 2013/14 annual reports were not noted in the minutes. She suggested that these minutes should not be adopted.
Mr T Makondo (ANC) agreed with Ms Maluleke.
The Chairperson suggested the postponement of the adoption of the minutes, noting that the Committee Secretary, Ms Mahdiya Solomons, would include the highlights in the report.
Minutes of the 29 October 2014
Mr Makondo moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) seconded the motion.
Minutes of the 5 November 2014
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) moved for the adoption of minutes.
Mr Mnguni seconded the motion.
Adoption of the Madibeng Visit Report of the 23 September 2014
Ms Bilankulu moved for the adoption of the report.
Mr Mnguni seconded the motion.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on the progress taking place around the Umzimvubu Dam, and an explanation on the finalisation of climate change measures regarding water.
Mr Singh, on Umzimvubu, replied that a priority plan of the government is around a new dam. The Premier of the Eastern Cape had been appointed to champion the project. The project was going to involve a lot of locals in terms of procurement and socio-economic impact. Umzimvubu was not a dam, but a project. There were two dams that were being built in the area. Work was planned to start as early as next year.
Concerning climate change, he said the strategy was being consulted in order to look at the redesign of dams to reduce desalination in them. The main challenge was around costs on desalination, the size of the dam and typography.
Mr Mokondo remarked the Department was asked to furnish the Committee with the profile of foreigners who were in its employ but up to now that had not happened. He also asked the Department to comment on its dilapidated water infrastructure that is leading to water losses. And he enquired if a study had been conducted in the area of hydraulic fracking so as to make sure ground water was not going to be affected.
Mr Singh, regarding the aging infrastructure, agreed that the infrastructure was old and that its ownership belonged to the national and local governments. The issue was prioritised as there were grants in place to deal with the challenges.
On the issue of fracking, he indicated shale gas was declared a controlled activity while a cabinet or government approval was being awaited. A study was being conducted. The companies undertaking the study were frequently updating the Department about progress.
Mr J Basson commented the Department had got a backlog of water licence applications totaling 1 297. Only 36 had been approved during the year under review. 625 have been declined because of a lack of information. He asked the Department to explain where the main problems were about the matter.
Mr Singh acknowledged the issue of license applications keeps cropping up in all the meetings with the Committee. The Department accepted the backlogs and mines not complying. He said the Department would reply in writing and come with a detailed presentation on challenges and regulations around licensing.
Ms T Baker (DA) wanted to find out about processes in place to enforce mines on compliance.
Mr Singh elaborated that the Department had a unit called Blue Scorpions. The essential challenge here was that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has got its own priorities. Crime is one of them. The Department is in talks with the NPA to also give environmental crime attention. Offenders are paying a fine that is not high enough, and the NPA lacks personnel to prosecute.
Mr D Mnguni wanted to establish how prepared the Department is in dealing with the National Development Plans (NDP) and making sure that accounting officers answer for all these issues.
Mr Singh informed the Members this issue rests with leadership and accountability. So far the Department has looked at how its programmes can be re-aligned to meet the needs of the NDP.
Ms M Khawula enquired why the Department is not imposing heavy fines on mines that are using water illegally because they have got money to pay the fines.
Mr Singh told Members that mines which do such illegal acts are given notices to stop using water. The issue is an administrative one. But the Department is now adopting a zero tolerance stance towards that.
Ms N Bilankulu questioned why three provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and North West – have benefited in the first two quarters of the 2014/15 on water supply to rural areas at the expense of the other provinces.
Mr Singh enlightened the Members the Department administers bulk infrastructure grants in provinces. The problem would be a lack of development in provinces. It all depends on the priorities of the provincial department. There are set criteria that are followed and the Committee would be sent a written reply on that.
Ms J Maluleke asked about the target the Department has set in bringing water to the rural areas.
Mr Singh said the Department has set to achieve 95% access to water in rural areas.
The chairperson, first, wanted to know about the worldwide norm on water leakages. Secondly, asked if a provision has been made for safe, sufficient water seeing the high pace of mushrooming informal settlements. Thirdly, enquired what stops the government from considering ‘one jojo tank, one household’ given the challenges around clean water.
Mr Singh, with regard to water leakages, replied that South Africa was doing well on water conservation and management. Water programmes are being intensified. A study on international norms on water leakages has been done and would be sent to the Committee.
On water safety, he indicated that is an area the Department needs to improve on. A collaboration between COGTA, Human Settlements and the Department of Water and Sanitation was a solution to the matter. Concerning the jojo tanks, he said he would try sell the idea to the Department and report back to the Committee.
Ms Bilankulu expressed concern that the Department appeared not to be sure if it was prepared to engage with the Committee because it had answers that it said would be replied to in writing.
Mr Singh made it clear the Department answered some questions in detail but evaded to answer other questions it is unsure of because there are many directors that specialise in certain technical matters that were not in the meeting. That is why the plan is to ask them to reply to those questions and invite them to clarify some of the issues directly to the Committee in the upcoming meetings.
Ms Khawula stated she was not clear about the responses the Department gave on illegal usage of water. The mines are getting away with it instead of getting harsher penalties.
Mr Singh pointed out that November is the enforcement month. This would apply to farmers and mines. The main problem is that mines always say they provide jobs, and cutting water supply would affect the welfare of the workers and cease operations. That must be taken into consideration.
The meeting was adjourned.