ATC121123: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs Relating to the Oversight Visit dealing with certain aspects of the work of the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Water Affairs in the Gauteng Province 24th — 27th July 2012, dated 7 November 2012

Water and Sanitation




The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (the Committee) went on an oversight visit, from 23 rd to 27 th July 2012, to assess and review matters on which the Committee held public hearings and briefings, and also open opportunities for further engagements with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), as well as their relevant entities, on various issues. The oversight visit started at the Department of Environmental Affairs Headquarters, in Pretoria , where the Committee held briefing meetings with both DEA and DWA, respectively. This was followed by further oversight visits to the Western Witwatersrand Basin , to view ongoing efforts in treating the acid mine drainage that pose a huge threat to the environment, especially surface and ground waters. The Committee also visited the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden to assess the viability of collaborative biodiversity conservation initiatives that the National Botanical Garden undertakes with the surrounding communities and to encourage the adoption of natural capital accounting in the country’s national botanical gardens by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Finally, the Committee visited Eskom’s Megawatt Park head offices where the Committee toured the site of the solar photovoltaic, and also visited a similar solar photovoltaic project at the Lethabo Power Station, in Southern Gauteng Province.

Meetings with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Water Affairs

The Committee held briefing meetings with the officials of the two departments, respectively, at the DEA head office, in Pretoria . The meeting was started by DWA officials, who updated the Committee on the progress of the Business Process Re-engineering Intervention, featuring, amongst other things, business process re-engineering approach; governance and resourcing; and implementable outputs within the Department, from November 2011 to June 2012. The purpose of business re-engineering process was to seek compliance with the National Treasury’s Performance Maturity Model, with the ultimate objective of attaining between 2 and 3 maturity levels, with certain elements of levels 4 and 5 being achieved in the process. [1] Major departmental challenges identified in the process consisted of the lack of participation of stakeholders, especially poor communities in policy and planning processes; and the lack of water education that undermines building of effective relationship between the poor and water institutions, which are responsible for the design and management of water resources and associated services.

Much discussion went into the Department’s policy framework that sets out revised principles for water management and underpins the policy reform for addressing equity and water democracy. The Committee suggested the need for DWA to interact with the Committee on its policy processes, citing the substantive contributions that parliamentary processes added to the Climate Change Green Paper in 2011 and the subsequent White Paper in 2012. It was recommended that the Department’s national policy proposals would be enriched in a similar manner, particularly as parliamentary public hearings aim to gather and hear from South Africans of all walks of life. The Department should give the Committee the space to engage relevant stakeholders on proposed changes to the National Water Resource Strategy.

The second significant input was a joint presentation done by the departments of Environmental Affairs and Water Affairs, on the progress that the three departments had reportedly made on “Integrated Permitting”. The Committee noted the good progress that the departments had reported to it, and proposed the use of legislative approach or a political protocol that can be adopted by Cabinet as suitable instruments for realising the institutional arrangement necessary for “Integrated Permitting”. The Committee would like to be notified of the modality for “Integrated Permitting” once it has been completed and agreed upon for it to assess the viability of the applicable approaches.

DWA also presented the overviews of the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Programme and the Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme, where the Department identified progress, successes and challenges. The Committee reiterated its unanimous view that an urgent review and amendment of the present funding model for the financing of Water Infrastructure and Water Services should be urgently undertaken and implemented. Firstly, the present use of providing municipalities with funding for Water Service and Water Infrastructure through the “equitable share”, which creates no obligation to spend money on water related matters, must be urgently changed, to establish a funding model, which obliges spheres and organs of government to spend money allocated for water related matters only on such matters. Secondly, the Committee highlighted the need for a single centralised infrastructure planning process that spans over all water infrastructural programmes. Therefore, there is a need for water infrastructure projects, including these in municipalities, to move to a centralized planning process and “conditional granting funding model” as opposed to the “equitable share funding model”, with the National Treasury playing a critical role in this regard. The Committee underscored the need for allocation of more money for the water sector, but indicated that this should not be under the current model of funding that allows municipalities to shift funds allocated for water related matters to sectors they deem priority. In addition, the Committee requested the Department to produce and submit a report on the water “hotspots” (outside the 23 district municipalities) to which 58 per cent of the 2012/13 budget of DWA was allocated in order for the Committee to conduct its parliamentary oversight processes.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) made three presentations in the afternoon of the same day. The first presentation outlined the new structural alignment of the Department. This was followed by the presentation on the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference and the green economy in the context of poverty eradication, in terms of both growth and employment creation in some renewable energy subsectors such as wind and solar, which have exponential growth potential. The presentation featured the “national policy landscape in support of a green economy transition”; the possible sources of funding for low-carbon and green economy transition; and zeroed on South Africa ’s own Green Fund that is housed in DEA. The purposes and scope of the Green Fund were explained, as well as the seven-member committee that assesses and considers applications made to the Green Fund. The Committee supported the reconfiguration of the Department, taking into account the explanations provided. The Committee also encouraged the use of the Green Fund for mobilising international funding. It further requested the Department to adequately delimit the scope of the Fund and also to develop a coherent set of rules to insulate decision-making on the Green Fund from stakeholder pressure. The Committee reminded the Department that the Green Fund would be a major focus for parliamentary oversight and accountability.

Visit to the Western Witwatersrand Basin

The Committee visited the Western Witwatersrand Basin, on 25 th July 2012, to view the efforts being put into decant prevention and management, ingress control and water quality management, following the presentation of a progress report in Parliament on the acid mine drainage (AMD) situation in the area. It was evident to the Committee that progress had been made in the three preceding thematic areas, although much still remains to be done to effectively deal with AMD in the Western Basin . For example, there is a mega-litre overflow as a result of seepage; sludge remains a problem in the short-term, although pumping sludge into a disused mine shaft is being considered in the long-term; salinity is still a challenge; and the overall cost of treating AMD has escalated dramatically and remains uncertain. It is in this regard that the Committee requires the Department of Water Affairs to produce and submit a report to Parliament on the expected long-term study that maps out the technological requirements for holistically dealing with AMD in the long run.

The Committee left for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COHWHS) that holds the secrets of the origins of species (according to archaeological & paleontological studies) to view the alleged impacts of AMD on the Cradle of Humankind. This visit occurred against the backdrop of media reports that AMD would destroy the Cradle of Humankind by dissolving fossils and by sinking caves. Scientists briefed the Committee by presenting the findings of a recent study that was conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to assess the impact of AMD on the Cradle of Humankind. The study revealed no impact of AMD on the groundwater quality and hence no threat to the Cradle of Humankind, although the quality of surface freshwater in certain surface streams appeared to have been compromised. The dolomite rock in the area, which is known to pacify acidification, explains this disparity. In fact, the CSIR study indicated that groundwater quality in the area was worse in 1985 than at the time of the recent study. The Committee was satisfied with the explanations provided by the scientists, noted and encouraged their good work and went on a tour of the world-famous Sterkfontein Caves and the award-winning Visitor Interpretation Centre at Maropeng that serves as a laboratory for the discoveries made in COHWHS .

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

The Committee visited, on 26 th July 2012, the 276-hectare Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden , one of the nine national botanical gardens in the country, to assess the effectiveness of national botanical gardens that fall under the management of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The Management of the Garden stated that the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden hosts about 200 000 visitors annually, has a biodiversity education centre, and holds career weeks and sponsored winter concerts to improve community understanding and use of the National Botanical Garden. Similarly, employment provision to certain members of the surrounding communities through the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme helps to improve the image and understanding of the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in the surrounding communities. Notwithstanding, the Committee recommended that more concerted efforts should be made to promote botanical gardens by getting communities involved and instilling the sense of ownership in them in the process. Having a sense of stake would help in securing critical support for national botanical gardens to ensure their sustainability in cases of adverse decisions that may threaten their existence in perpetuity. The Committee further recommended the holistic calculation of the natural capital [2] value of the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden and all other national botanical gardens and use these estimates as the basis for soliciting public funds for biodiversity conservation and other relevant activities in those gardens.

Eskom’s Renewable Energy Initiatives

The Committee proceeded from the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden to Eskom’s head office at the Megawatt Park , in Sandton, Johannesburg , considering that Eskom’s activities in energy production have important implications for the water and environmental sectors that fall within the ambit of the oversight work of the Committee.

The Committee visited Eskom to see the renewable energy initiatives that Eskom implements at the Megawatt Park , based on the company’s exhibition of its renewable energy projects, at COP17, in Durban . Eskom received the Committee and made a presentation on its Climate Change and Renewables Strategy, featuring the significance of renewable energy in South Africa , steps that the Government has taken to drive renewables deployment and South Africa ’s potential, in terms of renewable energy, especially solar. It was stated that South Africa has a very high solar irradiation, which is excellent for solar technologies, in comparison to countries, like Germany and Spain . A second presentation assessed the current status of renewables in Eskom, highlighting the organisation’s six-point plan considered a holistic approach for tackling climate change. It was evident that Eskom intends to be a renewable energy enabler in South Africa, taking into account the ongoing projects and those underway in this regard, such as solar photovoltaic projects at Eskom sites and the 100 MW SERE Wind Farm that will be online in 2013, as well as the concentrated solar power (CSP) project that should be online in 2016. The 49M initiative that encourages South Africans from all walks of life to work towards energy efficiency was also presented to the Committee. Similarly , a presentation was specifically made on the Megawatt Park Solar Photovoltaic Project that consisted of both fixed and solar tracking devises. These presentations were followed by discussions, whereby the Committee noted the good work that Eskom is putting into renewables. Finally, the Committee went on tour of the two solar PV facilities, after which the delegation returned to their base in Erasmia.

The Committee was scheduled to visit the Kendal Power Station, in Mpumalanga , on Friday, 27 th July. However, this was changed to the Lethabo Power Station, between Vereening and Sasolburg in the Free State , due to industrial action at Kendal. On arrival, the Committee received a safety briefing and further briefings on the overview of the Lethabo Power Station and the Solar PV Project at the Lethabo site. Discussions dwelt mainly on the Solar PV Project, whereby the Committee noted the significant work that Eskom is doing in this renewable energy subsector, but recommended that Eskom should consider to rapidly standardise and benchmark PV energy production at its sites. The Committee was concerned by the fact that performance tests to determine the effectiveness of the Solar PV Project had not been finalised and asked the management of the Lethabo Power Station to share the results of their intended tests with the Committee.

The Committee initially planned to visit the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site to assess the impact of existing and potential impacts of the approved opencast coal mining and other mining activities in the contested buffer zone, owing to the regional and international significance of Mapungubwe. It is the oldest known large human settlement in southern Africa , thereby leading to its designation as not only a National Park, but also a Trans-frontier Conservation Area, a World Heritage Site (WHS) and a Biosphere Reserve. It was in this context that the Committee was particularly concerned about the media reports that “Coal of Africa” had been awarded an unconditional new order mining right in the vicinity of Mapungubwe. Unfortunately, however, the Committee was unable to visit the Park and the World Heritage Site, as the South African National Parks (SANParks) that is responsible for managing the Mapungubwe National Park was not able to provide appropriate accommodation in the Park and not prepared to receive the Committee at the time. This led to the cancellation of the oversight visit to Mapungubwe and hence the proposed visits to the Wastewater Treatment Works in the surrounding areas in Limpopo .

The Committee unanimously adopted the Report, on 7th November 2012.

The Committee accordingly recommends the adoption of this report to this House.

Report to be considered.

[1] Level 1: Start-up (no departments frameworks for controls; Level 2: the Department has developed proper frameworks for controls; Level 3: the Department has effective controls; Level 4: the Department measures resource utilisation; Level 5: the Department manages resources in a manner that produces effective results; and Level 6: the Department optimises processes providing for continuous improvement and learning.

[2] Natural capital is the land, air, water, living organisms and all formations of the Earth's biosphere that provide us with ecosystem goods and services imperative for survival and well-being. It is the basis for all human economic activity.


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