National Water Bill / National Forestry Bill: briefing by Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report



9 March 1998

Mr Kavin, legal representative for the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, briefly discussed the contents of the two proposed bills (both section 75 bills):

(1) National Water Bill
(2) National Forestry Bill.

The Water Bill deals with:

- the licensing process for obtaining water use
- the powers of the minister with regard to catchment management agencies and management plans
- a catchment management agency and a water user agency
- the classification system for defining a water resource
- the obtaining and registering of servitudes
- monitoring the functions of various organizations
- the prevention of pollution in a managerial form
- procedural aspects such as obtaining automatic water rights and registering for servitudes
- the creation of a water appeal board which would deal with disputes

Questions posed to Mr Kavin by various committee members:
Would there be any land use planning in catchment areas and would there be any environmental management plan?

Mr Kavin responded that there would be land use planning. He also said that when an application was made for the rights to water use, the department had the right to demand an environmental report and that if this could not be produced or if it was insufficient, then it had the right to ask for more information.

Dr Gous (FF) referred to the Komati River where sugar cane farmers had utilised water to the detriment of further development and asked whether such farmers would have to apply again for water rights.

Mr Kavin said that present lawful users of water would be able to continue using water during the carryover period while the bill becomes an act. Later they would have to apply again for water rights and a re-evaluation of the situation would occur. Factors which would be taken into account in the issuing of water rights would be factors such as previous racial or gender discrimination, international water use and the future protection of the resource. This would make it likely that the amount of water allowed to farmers would be reduced.

Dr Gous asked further whether the Department be visiting the provinces to hold discussions with them about the proposed bills and had the Department considered the possibility of court action if water rights were taken away from farmers or if water availability was reduced?

Mr Kavin's response: The provinces would be visited and workshops held. There is a clause in the bill which states that if the reduction of water to a particular farmer is sufficient to make his agricultural process no longer economically viable, then compensation would be given following an application to the water appeal board.

Mr Bhengu (IFP) asked if the Department had considered the fact that previously disadvantaged communities would not be able to pay water rates and that this would make them "non-starter" groups?

Mr Kavin's response: Emergent farmers would have preference in obtaining water. The Bill recognises the problem of water rates. Exemption from payment would be granted in some instances until establishment of the economic venture. Financial assistance would also be granted. Both exemption and financial assistance would follow applications to the minister.

Committee members wanted to know if there would be any campaign to ensure that all farmers would be informed as to the route which must be taken in order to gain financial assistance?

Mr Kavin's response: The Bill includes a programme of consultation whereby all parties are informed as to what is happening.

In answer to the query of how will the value of water be calculated and who will pay, the Department responded that the Minister is still working on a financial programme and therefore the probable value of water has not been calculated. The money will be used to build up infrastructure and dams and also to ensure the proper conservation and management of catchment areas. All farmers will pay for the resource

Mr Gous wanted to know if any programme had been envisaged to make water practically available to all people?

Mr Kavin's response: The bill includes an implementation programme so that the bill meets its objectives which are primarily to make water available to all people, but especially previously disadvantaged communities.

In answer to a query, Mr Kavin stated that the bill refers to two main organisations:

(1) Catchment management agencies. Their function would be to ensure the management, protection and conservation of the resource.

(2) Water user associations. These would not be limited to agriculture. Any party using the water in a particular region would be allowed to join such an association and would be encouraged to do so when they were issued with a license. The old water boards would be forced to disband eventually.

In answer to the question: how would past discrimination be addressed, Mr Kavin said that the bill recognises past discrimination and its objective is primarily to address these issues. Mr Kavin again referred to the implementation scheme which was aimed at reaching the rural areas. The bill would ensure that consultation would occur right down to grassroots level.

Mr Kavin said that he would notify the Department about the comment by Ms Mothoagae (NP) that she doubted how effective the proposed workshops would be considering past failures. This comment was mirrored by Mr Metele (ANC) who doubted that people living in the rural areas would actually hear about the workshops.

Mr Metele also said that he would find it difficult to brief his province based on the information which had so far been provided. He asked whether it would be possible for Mr Kavin to produce a summary of the policies of his Department.

Mr Kavin reponded that most of the leaders in the water organisations would be local people and this would hopefully allow participation and transfer of information down to grassroots level. He also stated that he would prepare the requested document.

Mr Kavin then went on to discuss the Forestry Bill. He expressed his uncertainty as to the contents of the final Bill since the one which he was presenting was the first draft bill only.

The bill would cover:

- managerial aspects of forestry at a local level.
- fire protection
-protection of indigenous forests
- provisions on cultivation and conservation
-management of forests in general.

Mr Kavin expressed his confidence that the bill would be ready for tabling by the proposed date during August, despite the fact it was only in its early stages.

Mr Cwele commented on the importance of liaising with NCOP members so that they could be familiar with the bill and the issues contained in it at its various stages.

The delegates then discussed the proposed increase in wheat. Provinces were asked as to what position they would be taking -

North-West: Positive mandate in that they were in favour of the increased levy.

KZN: Mr Bhengu said that he was unable to give a positive mandate since there had been insufficient consultation with the affected parties.
Mpumalanga: Positive, but no written mandate.
Free State: Also positive, but no written mandate.
E.Cape: Positive mandate.

Mr Gous expressed his frustration at the absence of the Western Cape delegate. Mr Cwele then asked whether in fact there were any permanent delegates from Gauteng and the Western Cape since they had been absent from the beginning of the year.
The chairperson confirmed that there were permanent delegates from these two provinces. Mr Cwele suggested that these delegates be informed in writing that they were still part of the committee in case they had been led to believe otherwise. He went on to comment on the inadequacy of the presentation on the National Water Bill
and National Forestry Bill, saying that he still had insufficient information with which to brief his province.

NCOP members present:

Eastern Cape- Mr A.T. Metele (ANC)
Free State- Dr P.J.Gous (FF)
KwaZulu/Natal- Mr G.B.Bhengu (IFP) and Dr S.C.Cwele (ANC)
Mpumalanga: Mr S.P.Grove (ANC) and Mr N.W.Mudau (ANC)
Northern Cape: Mr D.J.Kanyiles (NP)
Northern Province: Mr N.L.Mashile (ANC) and Mr M.P.K.Tshivase (ANC)
North-West: Ms P.K.Mothoagae (NP)


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