Acid Mine Drainage; Blue Drop & Green Drop Report: DWS briefing, with Deputy Minister; Bucket Eradication: DBE briefing

Water and Sanitation

24 October 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) warned the Committee that water was already known to be a scarce resource, and needed to be well managed by the Department in order to avert the dire consequences of a water crisis which could eventuate by 2030.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) reported that 24 000 schools in South Africa had sanitation facilities. The norms and standards had been concluded in 2013, which stated clearly that pit toilets were not acceptable for sanitation. However, there were schools using pit toilets which had not been demolished. This was largely due to the communities refusing to demolish them, as they had been built through the various efforts of the community, and were therefore left as a legacy. The recent incident in the Eastern Cape had involved a learner at a school with proper sanitation, but the pit toilet had not been demolished. By June, 2 898 schools still relied on pit toilets; 3 040 schools which had been provided with proper sanitation, still had pit toilets; 7 274 schools still required Grade R facilities; and 2 103 schools required additional seats (either disabled or additional seats).

Members asked about the installation of dry sanitation systems in water-scarce rural areas, and queried the siting of toilet facilities long distances from the school buildings. They were concerned that small children often had to use adult-sized seats, and suggested there should be standard norms applied for the installation of new toilets.

The DWS presented on the Blue Drop and the Green Drop programmes. Members were critical of the fact that the report was outdated, as it addressed the issues of 2016, which did not provide the current state of the rivers and waste water treatment in South Africa. They asserted that the DWS did not seem to understand their responsibilities -- how would it help all South Africans to ensure that by 2030 they did not encounter water shortage problems?

The Department described its progress in dealing with the challenge of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), and confirmed that the short-term solutions implemented at all three Vall River System basins were operating well, with levels below environmentally critical levels. It said that the Vaal Dam was not affected by AMD. However, additional funding would be required to implement long-term solutions.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the importance of the bucket eradication report was to allow an independent socio-economic reflection the subject of water sanitation. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that South Africans had access to proper water and sanitation. Water was recognised as a right, in accordance with s27 of the Constitution.

An invitation to the meeting was extended to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), due to the launch of the recent programme by the President of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programme. The DBE had its own funds in cover the sanitation requirements in the programme.

The Chairperson introduced a new member to the Committee, Mr H Geyer (DA), who among other positions in legislature, had previously served on the Agriculture, Housing and Environmental Affairs committees.

Progress on Bucket Eradication: DBE presentation

Mr Solly Mafoko, Acting Chief Director: Infrastructure, DBE, said that the report was to communicate the scope of work and progress with regard to sanitation, and the technology that had been used in implementing the programme. The DBE had an infrastructure programme, guided by the norms and standards of schools guided by specific targets. During the 2018 year, there had been an unfortunate incident in Eastern Cape, where a young learner had fallen into a pit toilet. The President of South Africa had later issued an instruction requesting an audit of the sanitation at schools. The outcome of the audit conducted was presented to the President at end June.

In terms of the norms and standards, the DBE expected to have addressed the sanitation issues across South Africa by 2021. All 24 000 schools in South Africa had sanitation facilities. The norms and standards had been concluded in 2013, which stated clearly that pit toilets were not acceptable for sanitation. However, there were schools using pit toilets.

Schools had been provided with proper sanitation through various programmes, but the pit toilets had not been demolished. This was largely due to the communities refusing to demolish the toilets, as they had been built through the various efforts of the community, and were therefore left as a legacy. The recent incident in the Eastern Cape involved a learner at a school with proper sanitation, but the pit toilet had not been demolished.

Sanitation had been provided to communities that was not always age appropriate, or fit for purpose. This included sanitation for Grade 1- 4 and disabled learners. Schools with insufficient sanitation were largely in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces, due to the large influx of people to the regions. The increase in the enrolment of learners had resulted in there not being sufficient seats available.

In performing the audit, verification was obtained in relation to the schools with two programmes currently in operation -- the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) and the provincial programmes.

The ASIDI programme was managed by the DBE. When being costed, it was assumed that all the toilets were to be built with brick and water, and would generally be dry sanitation. Provisions were provided for the demolition of pit toilets, assuming that schools required borehole facilities. Schools which still had a challenge with sanitation were the schools found in the rural areas, where water provision was still an issue, therefore dry sanitation solutions were required

A provision had been recognised, to account for any fees difference in the procurement strategies and implementation process.

In June 2018, the following results were obtained:

  • 2 898 out of 25 000 schools in South Africa still relied on pit toilets;
  • 3 040 schools which had been provided with proper sanitation, still had pit toilets;
  • 7 274 schools still required Grade R facilities;
  • 2 103 schools required additional seats (either disabled or additional seats).

The pit toilets had been costed, as they were regarded as a priority. The required seats were:

  • Primary schools: 36 450;
  • Secondary Schools: 26 787;
  • Grade R: 6 319.

Gauteng, Western and Northern Cape had not been included in the provision for the demolition, as the pit toilets in those areas had been eradicated. KwaZulu-Natal, the Transkei, Limpopo (Vhembe and Sekhukhune specifically) showed a large concentration.

Provision had been made for expenditure of R6.8 billion, which was inclusive of charges for demolition costs, ventilated improved pit (VIP) toilets, professional service provider (PSP) fees, and implementing agent fees.

The progress with regard to the 367 mud structures was that 210 schools remained,100 were under construction, and 57 were at the procurement stage. There were VIP toilets provided at these schools. In other areas, dependent on the living conditions, technologies were used as recommended by the Water Research division.

659 projects had been completed to date by the various provinces through the Education Infrastructure Grant. The balance of the projects was implemented by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT). There were private funding had been mobilised by the trust.

Ms Pamela Tshwete, Deputy Minister: DWS, referred to a school that she would discuss with the DBE for follow up on with regard to sanitation issues.

Discussion

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said that there were areas in Limpopo, where children had access to adult toilets. Would the DBE consider the provision of smaller toilets?

The schools in rural communities had insufficient water, so how sure was the DBE about providing dry sanitation in those areas?

Considering all the differences in the areas at which the toilets were built, was there a basic model or were the models adjusted in accordance to the areas in which they were built, taking into account factors like water availability and ventilation.

At a school in the Ntandeni area, the toilets were filthy and were far from the school, which was often the situation at black schools. The Minister had once communicated that there was provision in the budget for schools, but the schools’ infrastructure in the rural areas had remained the same.

The Chairperson asked whether boreholes should be confined only to rural areas, of if consideration should also possibly be made for urban areas. He enquired whether the DBE served as an example to the community and practiced safe water usage. The norms and the standards served as an issue, so a copy of them would be greatly appreciated by the Committee. The approach when dealing with schools and households should be similar, although the costs would not be the same.

The Chairperson expressed an interest in knowing about the norms and standards, and the other costs that were involved with other departments in the building of the toilets. He asked whether it would be prudent to use one set of norms and standards for building the toilets.

DBE’s response

Mr Mafoko said that he was not an expert on sanitation, and therefore enquiries should be put to the Department of Water and Sanitation in order to better understand the issues they may face.

The distance between the toilet facilities and the schools was a long standing issue, and was largely due to managing the smells from the toilet. In the current provision, there was awareness of the security challenge in the plans adopted by the DBE. The maintenance of the VIP toilets required learners to be educated in order to understand the proper use of the facilities.

Currently there was a programme, in association with Unilever and Uniserve, which focused on the behavioural aspects of the programme. There was an education programme for the use of the facilities. The primary school children would have a play which shows the appropriate use of the facilities.

Boreholes were concentrated in the rural areas, due to urban areas having availability of waters. However, where it was not available, it could be addressed with the applicable municipality. The cost of drilling a borehole in an urban area exceeded the benefit of the installation.

The technologies used -- Bio-fill and Bio-digesters -- had been tested in the Eastern Cape, and were now being used in other schools across the provinces. The technology used was very costly, so the DBE was trying to find a way to manage the cost.

Mr Mafoko believed that the DWS may assist in reducing the cost of providing the sanitation infrastructure. Comparative analysis had been performed in order to determine why the costs were significantly different. The key contributors may be the market factors and the cost of obtaining the raw materials.

Bucket Eradication Programme, Acid Mine Drainage, Blue Drop and Green Drop: DWS Report

Bucket Eradication Programme

Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, Acting Deputy Director: DWS, said the person responsible for the presentation was not present. The presentation would be handled by a colleague who was new to the work to be presented.

Mr Mnguni said there should be sufficient answers with regard to the bucket eradication programme, but the government not being prepared raised further concerns. He suggested that the Committee should continue with the presentation as intended, and any comments made by the Committee could given to Ms Mochotlhi to handle.

The Chairperson ruled that a future date should be set for the DWS to attend, and the person who dealt with the bucket eradication programme issues had to attend and present. The DWS had to be pushed in terms of their programmes. It had taken two years and time was being wasted.

Blue Drop and Green Drop Report

Mr Anal Singh, Deputy Director General (DDG): Water Resource Services and Sanitation, DWS, said that the main issue was the release of the reports. He delivered the presentation with support from Ms Lerato Mokwena, Chief Director: Water Resource Services and Sanitation, and Mr Maruis Keet, Chief Director: Acid Mine Drainage.

The Blue and Green Drop Programmes had been initiated in 2008, with the intention to identify and improve water and waste management, and also to amalgamate the legal requirements.

Corrective measures were the focus through the implementation of the Blue Drop Risk Rating (BDRR) and Green Drop Risk Rating (GDRR). The BDRR assisted in the improvement of the service delivery or mitigation of the identified risks, and therefore served as a precautionary tool. The GDRR focused on water risk abatement planning, design capacity’s operational flow, technical skills and effluent compliance.

Deputy Minister Tshwete expressed concern that limited expertise was available within the Department. This should be addressed through the provision of mentoring to the current bursary holders, and appropriate placing of technicians. A request had been put to the DWS to ensure the bursary holders were mentored.

Mr Singh said a formal submission would be made to the Minister, and a summary of the report would be submitted for Cabinet consideration, where the issues would be dealt with. The DWS would then be instructed to issue the report to the public.

The Chairperson said that the previous report had been submitted in 2014. The DWS was required to submit an annual report, but there had been no submissions.

Discussion

Mr L Basson (DA) said water was a scarce resource, but no care that was being taken over water in South Africa. The answers provided by the Department were not good enough. The Committee should not accept the performance of the Department, as it was not acceptable

He highlighted how the last report presented on the Blue Drop and Green Drop was dated back to 2016, so the Department had provided insufficient information.

He commented that the Blue Drop programme had experienced a decline, according to the Department.

According to the 2014 report, 82% of waste water treatment plants in South Africa were at critical, high and medium risk, with only 18% at low risk. No trend analysis had been provided, indicating the results of the analysis could be even worse. The report was going to Cabinet, but it did not help as this was a 2016 report.

The Water Research Commission’s presentation had indicated that there were other ways to measure water, and as a result, he did not accept the presentation provided. The report was outdated as it addressed issues in 2016. He asserted that the 2016 results did not provide the actual state of the rivers and waste water treatment in South Africa.

Mr Mnguni said he was concerned, as the DWS did not seem to understand their responsibilities to South Africa. What did it mean to departmental officials when they did not receive an annual report from the sectors? How would the DWS help all South Africans to ensure that by 2030 they did not encounter water shortage problems? The Vaal water obtained from Lesotho was clean, but in South Africa it got dirty, so in which part of South Africa did it become contaminated? A presentation on the this, and the counter action by the DWS, should be communicated.

The Chairperson said capacity was available to understand the water levels and conditions in the country, and he failed to understand why the resources were not used. He recommended that a future date be set to discuss the improved findings by the DWS. He added that had been was a previous communication on the vacancies in the Department that had still not been filled.

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) presentation

Mr Singh said that AMD, associated with the coal and gold mines, was the key risk to water security in the Vaal River System (VRS). The short-term solution was neutralisation and metal removal, while the long-term solution was desalination and reuse. In 2011, the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) had been directed to implement a short-term solution (emergency works), supported by a R43 billion government loan – R18 billion for AMD and R25 billion for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The TCTA was directed to implement a long term project in May 2016. The long-term solution was a sustainable expansion of the short-term solution, and enabled reclaimed AMD to be used beneficially for industrial or potable use. It augmented the VRS supply security.

The short-term solution energy works was fully operational in all three VRS basins. namely the Eastern, Western and the Central basin.

Mr Marius Keet, Chief Director: DWS, confirmed that in the short term, all three basins were operating well, with levels below environmentally critical levels. Considering the limited funding, the following activities had been embarked on:

  • A team of experts had been introduced to assess the issues in the VRS, assessing the models and the depth of the issues present;
  • Assessing the levels of water that were pumped. With the information obtained, tests were in process and hopefully in 2019 the outcome would be applied and as a result, would reduce the cost. There could also be an implementation of the outcome in phases. 160 megalitres were pumped, and with this information, water level consumption may be cut down by 40 megalitres.

Discussion

The Chairperson said he would like a further analysis of the water -- specifically how the water used was treated, with further clarification from the DWS on the sourcing of water. He was interested to learn whether the government had investigated possible sourcing from Lesotho, or otherwise. He asked whether the DWS was able to source the necessary funding. He also wanted to know the real story behind the “conspiracy theories” that emerged during the implementation of the short-term solutions in 2015, where there was reference to flooding and the effect on the central business district (CBD).

Mr Basson asked if any potential customers for desalinated water, such as SASOL, Eskom and others, had been approached to take on the water, as this would be the quickest way of dealing with the matter.

Mr Mnguni said that the Department must be proactive and not reactive when it came to dealing with a potential water crisis.

Mr D Kabini (ANC) asked for clarification of the phases present in the particular report going forward. He highlighted that the AMD of previous years had resulted in its effects being felt by the current community. He wanted to know who was in charge of the AMD process, and what procedure was in place to monitor the process. Could the necessary budgets be sourced, and what challenges were faced by the DWS in this regard?

DWS’s response

Mr Keet said that with the water level crisis that had started back in the early 2000’s, the biggest issue being the decanting, where the AMD water flows upwards and out into the rivers. This had been stopped. However, the other issue to make sure the other tables were stopped, because people had stopped pumping. Parliament had said the water should be stopped so that it did not reach the environmentally critical level, which had been achieved. After the acid and metal was removed, the water could be used for drinking.

He said the Vaal Dam was not affected by AMD. Water security was important, because one could not afford to release good quality water in order to dilute polluted water. To transfer water to water that could be used for drinking would cost approximately R20 per cubic metre. The more expensive water became, the more palatable the AMD water became.

Government’s assistance was required, as this was not a money making business. An environmental levy and a system were needed to assist with this process. There were people interested, but there would come a time where the DWS would have to consider an appropriate procedure. The lack of mine closures was a difficult challenge, but there had been collaboration with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). The DWS was more involved with dealing with the water issues, while the DMR dealt with mining.

The meeting was adjourned.

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