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SELECT COMMITTEE ON LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS
21 May 2003
BUDGET VOTE NO 34 WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Reverend P Moatshe (ANC, North West)
Document handed out:
Budget Vote 34: Water Affairs and Forestry
Ms B N Dlulane
Dr E A Conroy
Ms B Thompson
Mr R M Nyakane
Mr V V Z Windvoël
Mr M A Sulliman
Rev P Moatshe
Ms A M Versfeld
Also present, from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), were:
Mr M Muller - Director General: DWAF
Mr A Brutus - Parliamentary Officer: DWAF.
Ms Y Witbooi - DWAF
The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed members and guests present.
Briefing by the Director General: DWAF, Mr M Muller, on Budget Vote No 34:
Mr Muller gave a brief review of the Budget of DWAF for 2003-04 in which he pointed to the three main functional areas of the Dept., viz. Water Resource Management, Water Services, and Forestry (see Presentation 1, 21-05-03).
He further pointed out that the decrease in the funding of the area of water resources management was due to the fact that no funds were allocated for the Working for Water project; the increase in the funding for water services was to be utilised for dealing with the sanitation backlog; and the decrease in the forestry allocation was due to the fact that many state plantations were handed over to SAFCOL.
Response to questions:
In response to questions from members of the Committee, Mr Muller made the following points:
The allocation to Mpumalanga for forestry was so low because most of the plantations had been handed over to the private sector. The plantations had been handed over to SAFCOL, which was now managing them. Privatised plantations are funded by the users and do not appear on the Government account.
With respect to Black economic empowerment, the Singesi forests have been transferred to community shareholding with a black ownership component. The community will get rental for the land and a proportion of the income from the plantation. At present the Department is holding the money until it is determined who the correct beneficiaries should be.
The Siyakubeka plantation also now has a substantial black empowerment component, with the community also receiving rental for the land. This plantation will supply a Mondi pulp mill in KZN.
The Komati plantations will also have a substantial black empowerment element in future.
With respect to transformation, senior management had been successfully transformed with respect to colour but not with respect to gender. This latter aspect was receiving attention.
The transformation of the technical levels was still problematic but the Dept was working toward creating a cadre of black technical experts. R40 million has been set aside for training in this respect.
Water user associations and Water Boards were being encouraged to take transformation seriously.
Allocation of funds to the Working for Water project have been affected by the Cabinet decision to re-evaluate poverty alleviation programmes. Treasury is doing the re-evaluation and results will only be known in October. This creates difficulties for the Department, which might lose managers in the interim. The Director General suggested that this matter could be raised in the debate on the Budget Vote in the Council.
Information on the breakdown of spending on sanitation by province and municipality was available in the Division of Revenue Act and could be made available to members.
Members would also be provided with details on who will benefit from black economic empowerment by province and community.
Local government was established to run water schemes. The Department would only know which municipalities were encountering difficulties once the schemes were transferred to them. The Department would provide help to those municipalities who were struggling and it was working with SALGA and DPLG in this regard. Staff would be transferred to local government bodies and organised labour was being involved in this process. The Department also had the funds and expertise to assist municipalities where this was necessary.
There has been a decrease in forests as a result of a Cabinet decision and land has been utilised for other purposes such as conservation. The reduction has however occurred only with commercial plantations. Indigenous forests are still encouraged to increase. Pines however are thirsty trees and pine plantations have been reduced.
Forest guards were appointed to protect indigenous forests and they are still doing this.
Work on rehabilitating the Duku-duku forest was not funded out of Working for Water funds and will therefore continue.
Outbreaks of Cholera do increase the political will to improve sanitation. Nevertheless, there has been an ongoing programme to improve the provision of water and sanitation since 1994. Modification of unsanitary behaviour will also help in this regard. The Department is seeking to get a fixed amount for sanitation and this function will not be transferred to local government. A budget for the building of 300 000 toilets a year is being sought.
The Department is aiming at making clean water available everywhere by 2008. Areas such as Griqualand East might have been neglected up to now because the Department cannot spend all its money on reaching a few people. A provincial list of funded projects will be made available to members.
The Department pays for dams when they are to be utilised by poor people; otherwise, the users pay. Dams are however not built merely to satisfy basic needs, but these needs could be satisfied in the process of satisfying other needs. The Olifants Dam in Limpopo is an example here.
The level of water in the Driekoppies Dam is dropping due to the drought in the area. If there had been no dam, however, there would have been no water at all.
The water in the Hartebeespoort Dam is contaminated because more than half the water flowing into the dam is contaminated. This suits farmers and the water is treated before it is provided as drinking water. Algae growing in the contaminated water, however, create problems for the treating of that water.
Water is scarce and has to be used carefully. Soon there will be no new water and this has to be taken into consideration when planning extensive new agriculture.
There is to be a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry on the transfer of water schemes to municipalities. DWAF and the Department of Provincial and Local Government will be invited.
The Chairperson will look into the possibility of the Committee visiting the aquaculture project in Stellenbosch on Mon., 26 May 2003.
The Chairperson thanked members and guests for their attendance and adjourned the meeting at 12:45.
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