Season’s Greetings to our followers and supporters. Let’s hope we have a cleaner Vaal River in 2019.
CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT on the river – Sunday 23 December
Sunset boaters at the Barrage are invited to join Luciana Country Estate’s Carols by Candlelight on Sunday 23 December starting at 19:30.
Bring your own candles and refreshments.
There may not be jetty space, but boats are welcome to gather close to Luciana’s banks to join in.
SEWAGE POLLUTION CRISIS
SAVE the VAAL has been ringing alarm bells for years about the looming crisis. Nobody listened. When the system collapsed in 2018, resulting in raw sewage running in the streets of Emfuleni from Vereeniging to Sebokeng and the pollution reached Parys causing in a major fish kill, people started to sit up and take notice.
SAVE’s ongoing media campaign resulted in a rush of media visits to the Vaal. Thanks to these investigative journalists in the print and electronic media and a buzzing social media, the message got through to the entire country including President Ramaphosa.
Positive results can be attributed to SAVE’s friends in the media, and its own social media campaign, The results included the Human Rights Commission enquiry into the abuse of human rights in terms of the right to a clean environment. The first HRC session held in September at Stonehaven-on-Vaal was followed in October by the Minister of Finance’s announcement in his mid-term presentation to Parliament that the SANDF was to be deployed to the Vaal on the instruction of the President.
In November, The Human Rights Commission held its second session in Johannesburg when submissions from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Sasol, Ekhuruleni and Johannesburg Councils and National Treasury were interrogated. Site visits were planned. The Commission will present its final report to Parliament in mid-2019.
The SANDF’s Engineering Corps arrived in November. It is expected that a contingent of 400 soldiers will be based in the Vaal for a year. The army quickly got to work starting with a clean-up process at Sebokeng WWTP. This plant has not been functioning since the end of May, with raw sewage gushing into the Rietspruit and Loch Vaal causing an ecological disaster.
The army expects to complete work on Module 3 in mid December so this module will then be operational again. Work will continue on the existing modules 4 and 5 (modules 1-2 were decommissioned). The team will then focus on the pump stations and, thereafter, the other two waste water treatment plants. The Government has committed funding to re-start the expansion project known as module 6 at the Sebokeng pant. This project was stopped due to lack of funds in the Emfuleni Local Council.
The SANDF Colonel recently visited the Rietspruit where it enters Loch Vaal. This area has become a sewer pit with bad smelling, digesting sewage clearly seen. It is the responsibility of the Department of Water and Sanitation to rehabilitate the Rietspruit and Loch Vaal. Various options of how to deal with this need to be explored and action taken. Dredging is a consideration but there are other solutions too.
The Gauteng’s Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) has done little to deal with the crisis. Gauteng COGTA was tasked with formulating and implementing a plan to deal with the Emfuleni service delivery crisis, including the collapse of the waste water system, in terms of its partial administration of Emfuleni Local Council.
ONLY THE BEGINNING
The clean-up operation and completion of emergency repairs to stop the ongoing sewage pollution is just the first step. SAVE is now turning its attention to ensuring that all three levels of Government be held accountable and responsible. This means the provision of adequate funding, resources and expertise to ensure planned, ongoing maintenance, to be monitored by civil society. We must ensure that the current crisis never happens again.
National government must allocate sufficient funds and give priority attention to the implementation of the long awaited Sedibeng Regional Sewage Scheme (SRSS) to provide sufficient capacity for development. The two additional modules planned at Sebokeng WWTP are but one section of this project. Attention needs to be given to the Leeukuil and Rietspruit plants as well as the networks and pump stations. The entire project has been costed at R5 billion over a 10-15 year period. SAVE is tired of unfulfilled promises – now is the time for action.
SAVE’S legal team has been hard at work on what will be a landmark case. The aim is to build on the structural interdict obtained in February this year to ensure that all efforts are directed towards stopping pollution of the Vaal River. This includes maintenance and the SRSS to be placed under an order of the high court. We are ready for a strong fight.
SAFETY ON THE RIVER
SAVE appeals to all boating enthusiasts to pay special attention to safety on the river during the holiday season. Only registered skippers are permitted to drive boats and the rules must be obeyed to avoid accidents. The Vaal Barrage has become a popular venue for sundowners and to watch the beautiful sunsets. Be mindful of other river users’ enjoyment. Let’s keep that area a ‘no wake’ zone at sunset. There’s a whole river beyond that area if you want to wakeboard or tube at speed.
The SAVE Committee of volunteers is passionate about bringing the shocking pollution to an end. Donate generously to this worthy cause. SAVE’s work offers benefits to the local economy, the environment and all who enjoy the Vaal River. Court cases are costly. We heed the support of the entire Vaal community in our quest of a clean river.
Donations are tax deductible per Section 18A of the Income Tax Act. All you need to do is request a tax certificate.
We are most appreciative to many people for their financial support over the past year.
Special thanks to Luciana Country Estate for a donation of R155 000.
Thank you Daphne and Ian Forbes who requested guests at a special birthday celebration to donate to SAVE in lieu of gifts. We hope other supporters will follow your example.