No crisis in SA’s sewage system and no need for public to know either
Another smelly South African government failure. And the minister wants R23 billion to fix the problem! Well, dear lady, that ain’t going to happen. You see, it goes like this…the ANC has plundered the tax money to enrich themselves – they can’t even find money to buy land back from farmers for the “disadvantaged masses”(so now they’re just going to start taking it – but that’s another story for another day). Where do you think the ANC is going to find this type of money to fix something that isn’t considered a crisis….yet (cause they’re used to living in this crap anyways)? They have welfare; soccer stadia; pot holes; crime; education; health; houses; the President’s 20 children etc. to fund and the white tax payer base is getting smaller and smaller. Oh, and don’t forget, they also need to “lose” some tender money for their bank accounts as well. Ah, the rainbow nation, soon available in all shades of brown! Any retired (read: ousted because you’re white) engineers are wanted to repair this mess…don’t all rush at once.
Water affairs minister Buyelwa Sonjica on Thursday finally released a report on the state of sewage treatment throughout South Africa. It paints a grim picture of millions of litres of raw sewage flowing into waterways. But there is no crisis yet, Sonjica insisted, because there aren’t mass disease outbreaks yet. And there is no need to alarm the public with more complete and more up-to-date figures either.
It’s called the Green Drop report, and it is not pretty. According to the interpretation of the department of water affairs, based on criteria it chose and weighted, 55% of the sewage plants measured require drastic intervention soon, because they are grossly mismanaged, are dumping raw sewage into waterways or simply don’t monitor or report data on their operations at all.
That is somewhat on the optimistic side, however. Because of what the department says is the large number and wide spread of sewage treatment plants, the survey wasn’t complete. The rural the plants were the ones more likely to be skipped, and they were generally less likely to be working well. In the Eastern Cape the assessment rate was just over a quarter of all treatment plants in the province; in Limpopo less than a third of plants were looked at.
That shows in provincial statistics, with poorer, less urbanised regions doing very badly indeed. In Limpopo every single last plant that was looked at failed the (reasonably generous) test applied by the national government. In the Free State the failure rate was 80%, in the North West it was 77%. In Gauteng, on the other hand, it was only 20%.
Does that translate into a crisis? Not by Sonjica’s reckoning.
Crisis? It depends how you define crisis,” she said in response to the question. “I would rather say we have reason to be concerned, but I don’t think we have reached crisis levels. I would think that if we had reached crisis levels…. we would be talking about an outbreak of many diseases, waterborne diseases, and we are not there.”
Asked for clarification, she re-iterated that “when everybody is sick in the country” it may be appropriate to declare an emergency, but up to that point “we have a very serious challenge that we are busy addressing”.
The challenge is serious enough that Sonjica delayed the release of the Green Drop report by several months, since at least the end of 2009, while formulating a response. It would be alarmist of government to release such data without also showing it has a plan of action, she said. “As a government we don’t have the luxury of just making people aware without offering solutions.”
Those solutions include going to the Treasury with the begging bowl out for at least R23 billion, trying to convince retired engineers to go work at far-flung municipal plants, and reaching out to the United Kingdom for help and advice.
When (not if, as much as we’d like to believe so) a fatal outbreak of a disease like cholera occurs in South Africa again, we’ll be interested to see how Sonjica reacts. We’ll be even more interested to hear what the courts have to say when relatives of the dead claim that the department of water affairs was aware of the risk, and had a duty to forewarn, but chose the path of secrecy instead.