Water Allocation Reform: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

22 August 2006
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 August 2006
WATER ALLOCATION REFORM: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Water Allocation Reform with regard to Riparian Rights and Licensing in order to bring about Sustainable Livelihoods PowerPoint Presentation
Program changes for the remainder of the term

SUMMARY

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presented an update on licensing procedures with special attention to the Inkomati river region. The presentation highlighted progress being made and the outstanding issues especially relating to mindsets needing to change from one of control to one of management. The Committee wanted to hear what solutions were available and felt that forestry was largely neglected by the Department’s licensing presentation. The Committee expressed their major concern that license applications and processes were too complicated and not user friendly. Both the Departmental representatives and the Committee felt that building good relationships is imperative for the rapid implementation of the National Water Act. They were also both heartened that unlawful water use had been identified that could possibly enable the approval of applications for licenses from Historically Disadvantaged Individuals that had been rejected on the grounds of lack of water availability.

MINUTES

The Chairperson opened the meeting with the administrative issue of whether the previous minutes had been read; changes made where inaccuracies were noted and whether the Committee accepted them.

Mr J D Arendse (ANC) accepted the minutes as they were.

Mr K Moonsamy (DA) suggested an amendment to the minutes which the Chairperson endorsed.

Ms J A Semple (DA) noted that the DA could only comment on the minutes for meetings that they were present for, which they accepted.

Mr M W Sibuyana (IFP) stated that he had read the minutes but was concerned that they did not reflect that his apology for absence from a previous meeting had been accepted.

The Chairperson assured Mr Sibuyana that his apology had been accepted and further made note of changes to the programme for the term. This included changes due to the People’s Assembly and changes to the topic of discussion for meetings which would otherwise remain the same.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) took this opportunity to apologise in advance for her leave of absence on the coming Friday.

The Secretary noted that apologies are only necessary after the meeting.

Mr Sibuyana also submitted that he could not attend on Friday.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that she had requested comments on the programme and that the opportunity for apologies was now closed.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) presentation

The Chairperson introduced Mr A Seetal (Director: Water Allocation Reform, DWAF) and Mr A Matukane (Limpopo Province DWAF representative). She pointed out that licenses should be used to advance the cause of those that were not previously included in the economy of the country. She pointed out that the Department had been asked to present on the topic of licensing but that since they are the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry; this presentation should include licensing with regards to both water affairs and forestry. She felt that forestry was often excluded and neglected and requested that a message be extended to future presenters from the Department that any discussions should include forestry insofar as it is part of their mandate.

Mr Seetal pointed out that forestry licenses were captured in the presentation because forestry is considered a major user of water. He updated the Committee on the Department’s progress according to the three-phase plan. Draft 4 of the Manual for Race and Gender Reform has been completed and needs only go to the Director-General and Minister for approval. He noted that there had been widespread public agreement with the draft. The phases did not have to run separately but could proceed simultaneously. He suggested the need for greater resources and capacity in the Department and outlined the creation of WAR (Water Allocation Reform) Champions which allows for ongoing training in the Department. He further expressed the need for clarity on what resources and timelines are available for the process of licensing, and that a proposal was being made in this regard. He felt strongly that the entire process should be speeded up, possibly by considering new ways to handle licenses. The third phase confronts problems around existing mindsets and difficulties in measuring benefits directly in terms of improved livelihood of people and water. He suggested the use of indicators and proxy measures.

He continued to elucidate what the WAR process was: a discussion document to present a holistic picture to the public. This could be done through two options, the first which makes use of ‘Resource Specific General Authorisations’ where water is set aside for use by a specific group of people (especially Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDIs)). This option is quick and relatively uncomplicated. The second option is slower and more in depth; it also sets water aside for specific uses but is mostly aimed at the larger users. He suggested that the Inkomati river licenses would need to follow this option. He made it clear that the Department was on track for their targets, having six projects already in the pipeline and the remaining ones to be dealt with in the coming years. The six licenses already in progress showed that about 30% of registered water users accurately reflected their water use in their applications, 30% underestimated their use, 30% overestimated their use and the remaining five to ten percent were unlawful users.

With regards to the Inkomati Water Management Area (WMA) in particular, satellite pictures have shown that sugar cane farming in the Inkomati region, where extensive irrigation is used, has grown from about 38.6ha in 1996 to 67.1ha in 2004. Mr Seetal noted that this growth might be largely unlawful in terms of the water use licenses. Furthermore he pointed out that other crop farming in the region has grown from about 89ha to 122ha in the same time period. He pointed out that if the water use is indeed unlawful, this water could be redirected to enable the Department to accept applications from HDIs which so far constitute about 20 000ha in the region. These applications have thus far been rejected, apparently due to insufficient water availability. He further expressed his frustration of working in vacuum where there is no water sector empowerment programme.

Mr Seetal said that the most important way of fast tracking licensing, although labour-intensive, is creating good relationships with all stakeholders and interested parties. This had been a very successful strategy in the Clanwilliam area where a mutually beneficial meeting had taken place. The presentation went on to include timelines and cost analyses for proposed tasks and ended with a summary of the major issues affecting the progress and implementation of WAR. He highlighted the need to fast track decisions but that it was important to understand the risks when taking decisions, the need for inter-departmental relationships, and the changing of mindsets of all concerned.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked Mr Seetal for the presentation and its early distribution to Members of the Committee. She noted that there would be a further briefing on the illegal use of water and that she felt that forestry was still neglected in his presentation.

Mr Arendse asked who would be held responsible for the quality of water in the proposed Resource Specific General Authorisations, as water would not follow the usual process of being distributed by a municipality where accountability is easier to effect. He also asked what percentage effect the 20000ha of rejected applications would have on gender/race reform if they were accepted.

Ms Semple similarly asked what magnitude such applications made in the entire country as the 20000ha is a regional estimate. She also asked why, in light of the lack of timber in the country, licenses for growing trees were so difficult to get because of water use.

Mr Sibuyana expressed his concern that the Department said that things have been done but they need representatives from the ground to validate this. He asked whether, after 12 years, there is hope that working relationships will be taken care of.

Mr H B Cupido (ACDP) asked how the WAR Champions are recruited, how they are assessed and what their responsibilities are. He was concerned that the license process is too complicated in light of the fact that most applicants are not highly educated.

The Chairperson noted that other sectors also felt that the DWAF processes are too complex and suggested that they could be streamlined in a similar way to the SA Revenue Services (SARS) and e-government which have made applications very user friendly. She asked whether licenses helped make inroads to change the course of the country and improve livelihoods. She noted that there are many dams in the country where people living on the banks do not have access to the water. She emphasised the need to establish whether licenses are a good tool and whether an amendment to the Act is necessary so that one person can have many licenses and others none. She also expressed a need for discussions about the reality of licenses and that inter-departmental and inter-sectoral relationships are more important than increased resources.

Mr Moonsamy agreed saying that implementation is key and that in their oversight, the picture on the ground was bleak. He felt that the Committee and Department would be failing in their mandate if implementation did not take place. He also asked for elaboration on invasive weeds.

Mr Seetal responded to the questions by further discussing problems around the implementation of the Act. He identified that the biggest problem is the changing of mindsets from one of control to one of management. He clarified that in the Resource Specific General Authorisations, small users did not need a license; the Department just needs to know of their existence. Licenses are really for big users in order to regulate pollution and excessive usage. In order to clarify race/gender reform percentages, targets would need to be created as well as liaison with the land reform people. He expressed his frustration with the slow progress and said that he had brought in consultants to make up for the lack of capacity. He reiterated that relationships were very important, and in response to Ms Semple, noted that they were not dealing with absolutes with water. In response to Mr Arendse he said that water quality accountability would depend on its use, for example the Department of Health would be responsible if water posed a health risk.

The Chairperson clarified the questions that needed to be answered.

Mr Seetal handed the questions over to Mr Matukane who had better experience on the ground in the Limpopo Province.

Mr Matukane said that more than 50% of dams were unregistered and that decisions must be taken as to whether these must be emptied or the water transported to registered users. He noted that there are generally very few black farmers. He said he had met with farmers and that he often had to help farmers understand that the licenses’ purpose was to protect their water. He felt that licenses could potentially help but that users need to understand their value. He gave the example in Springfield where the water quality is very bad and DWAF had assigned water from a nearby dam to other things even though its transport is very expensive.

Mr Matukane clarified that Champions were mostly existing staff members who are retrained by recruited consultants. He further said that it requires very strong personalities to match people who have so much with people with nothing as this is a very emotional environment.

The Chairperson suggested a break before further questions were taken and she requested solutions instead of problems being voiced.

During the break, Ms Van der Walt asked Mr Matukane not to generalise about white farmers being negative about water licenses.

The Chairperson restarted the meeting with a note that the recent DWAF Junior Awards had been won by three female learners who had gone to Sweden to participate in the finals. She said that this award had typically gone to male learners in the past and she requested the Committee’s endorsement that a letter of congratulations be sent to the learners and their schools. The Committee agreed with this sentiment.

Mr I D Mogase (ANC) thanked the chair and said that the people had voted them all in to provide service delivery, not just to talk about issues. He wanted to know how issues are being addressed, not just what the issues are.

Mr Sibuyana wanted to know if the users feel that the processes are useful to them.

The Chairperson said that the Tariff Increase Document had been submitted and that Members would be informed of what should be done with it. She thanked the Department again for their presentation. She felt that there was not enough on forestry and other licenses. She suggested that authorisation must be re-examined as citizens did not know its requirements. She said that the DWAF needs to streamline its processes and market information to the public. She added that there was not enough WAR process fast tracking and that not enough HDIs were benefiting. Furthermore, she pointed out that the licensing process needs interdepartmental relationships and that it needs to be clear to what extent the Act takes the country forward. She highlighted the importance of matching water availability and access to it and that discussions should be regionalised and not centre around Pretoria only.

Mr Seetal responded that the presentation showed that the process has gone faster than expected and he felt it was very positive that the possible illegal use of water had been identified. He was grateful that he could take recommendations back to the Department and would like to plan an oversight trip to Clanwilliam so that the Committee could see the effects on the ground.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Seetal, and said that it had been very helpful that the presentation did not only discuss Pretoria.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

 

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