Parliament, Wednesday, 24 October 2018 – The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation has reprimanded the Department of Water and Sanitation for its “laxity” in releasing Green and Blue Drop reports since 2014. The department is obligated to release Green and Blue Drop reports annually, which give a clear picture of the quality of South Africa’s water resources.
The Green Drop Report is a status is given to municipalities that comply with good wastewater discharge standards, while the Blue Drop Report provides information on the quality of drinking water, as per the South African National Standard for Drinking Water.
“It is unacceptable that the 2016 reports are still in draft stage in 2018. We are of the view that department officials are getting paid for doing nothing. In January 2017, the department promised to deliver the report in October, we are now a year from that promised date yet the report is still not here. What the department is doing is illegal, because this laxity undermines the responsibility to ensure the quality of our water resource,” Mr Johnson emphasised.
The committee is of the view that the department’s negligence is a direct contributor to the current challenge of water pollution caused by sewage spillages into our rivers, because assessment mechanisms are not being implemented. “Without detailed annual assessments, all government spheres will not know their risk factors and would not know what mitigating factors to implement,” Mr Johnson emphasised.
It is also unacceptable that the excuse of lack of skills is used every time this matter is discussed. This is unacceptable in the context of the existence of the Water Research Commission, which has expertise and technologies that could be tapped to assist the department.
The committee instructed the department that within the next 14 days it must present a detailed report on the quality of rivers and the state of waste water treatment infrastructure. The committee has committed to sit on weekends to deal with the matter, if necessary.
Meanwhile, the committee resolved not to take a presentation from the Department of Water and Sanitation on progress with the bucket eradication programme. This is because before presenting, the department announced that the person giving the briefing is new and would not be able to answer some of the questions.
In the context of the long-running nature of this programme and the fact that the committee has since its inception highlighted the need for speedy implementation of the programme, the committee decided that it needed to receive a thorough report.
“This programme goes to the heart of the mandate of the department and it is unfortunate and unacceptable that the department came unprepared for the meeting. The people of South Africa who are still subjected to the inhumane sanitation system deserve better,” said Mr Mlungisi Johnson, the Chairperson of the committee. The committee has given the department seven days to come prepared to brief the committee on progress.
Meanwhile, the committee welcomed progress in implementing short-term solutions to acid mine drainage. However, it also emphasised the need for the Department of Water and Sanitation and other departments to resolve funding challenges hampering long-term solutions.
The committee called for speedy engagements with potential off-takers of partially treated acid mine water, as this has potential to bring in additional revenue that could assist in dealing with the challenge.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WATER AND SANITATION, MR MLUNGISI JOHNSON.
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