Over R300 Million Set Aside for Vaal River Rehabilitation

There’s good news for South Africans living in the Vaal Triangle, as the government says it has set aside R341 million for the rehabilitation of all wastewater treatment infrastructure in the region.

In an expose by Carte Blanche last year,  the current affairs show found that the situation at the Vaal River – which provides a major source of water for Gauteng – had reached crisis levels, saying it was “drowning in sewage”.

Raw sewage was spilling from pump stations in the Emfuleni Municipality on the northern bank of the river, onto land and into the river, posing environmental and health risks, including a threat to the drinking water of 45% of Gauteng’s population.

The Vaal River Rehabilitation Project was therefore set up last year to tackle the crisis, and this new project forms part of that.

The new projects will see 250 youth and community members being trained on plumbing, carpentry, brick-laying, paving and agriculture, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced on Friday.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will also train 2000 youth and community members to “guard 44 pump stations until the completion of the project, which is projected for March 2020,” the Minister told the community of Sebokeng.

According to Carte Blanche, millions of litres of raw sewage had been spilling from Vaal Triangle pumps over the past three years, with the decay and stench apparent as you approached the area. Apparently even the rats were dying.

The  implementation protocol for the new project was signed last month between the Water Department, SANDF and various other departments and organisations, including Ekurhuleni Metro’s East Rand Water Care Company (ERWAT) who will be the implementation agent.

“As a wastewater specialist company, ERWAT will ensure that all wastewater treatment infrastructure is resuscitated to an operational state and that pollution in the Vaal River is stopped,” Nkwinti said.

A total of 120,000 households in the southern part of Gauteng will benefit from module 6 of the project (a regional bulk sanitation infrastructure, due to be completed at the end of May 2019), while module 7 is expected to start by July 2019.

Nkwinti also announced the establishment of the Vaal Catchment Management Agency in a bid to protect water resources in the area.

He said the work of the agency will include river monitoring, reporting on pollution incidents and dealing with polluters while also raising awareness on protection of the water resources and environment.

South Africa’s beautiful Vaal River. Photos by Stan Sanetra, March 2019

“The Vaal River Catchment Management Agency will ensure that water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner,”, the minister said.

Sources: Carte Blanche, SAnews.gov.za

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