Vaal River pollution: SAVE response to Minister of Water and Sanitation announcement re plans to stop pollution by March 2020

Environmental group, SAVE the VAAL, says that the Minister of Water and Sanitation’s recent announcement about the short-term measures to stop pollution of the Vaal River lacks the detail required by a February 2018 structural interdict against the Emfuleni Local Council and its Municipal Manager.

SAVE is currently proceeding with a court application to join the Ministers of Finance, Water and Sanitation and Environmental Affairs as well as the Gauteng Premier and the Gauteng MEC: Finance and MEC: Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to the 2018 structural interdict against Emfuleni Local Council.

“We have heard so many plans for the rehabilitation and development of the Sedibeng Regional Sewerage System since we first confronted the then Minister of Water Affairs in 2007 about the sewage problems on the Vaal. When SAVE threatened legal action because none of the plans were implemented, the Minister (then the Minister of Water and Sanitation, and now Minister of Environmental Affairs) re-announced the plan in 2015 with a price tag of R5 billion. Lack of implementation of these plans is the direct cause of the current sewage pollution disaster in the Vaal River and in the streets and homes of Emfuleni today” said SAVE spokesperson, Maureen Stewart.

“The completion date of March 2020 given by the Minister is positive for the short term, but more detail and transparency are required. What happens from 2020 onwards? We are concerned that this is another public statement made under threat of court action. Unless we are given detailed implementation plans with realistic milestones and timeframes through the court, we will not be persuaded that the plan will provide a long-term and permanent solution to our sewage problems”, Stewart explained.

The application currently before the court aims to make all role-players responsible and accountable to the court to stop pollution of the Vaal River. The respondents will not only have to provide detailed implementation plans with completion dates, budgets and responsibilities for the short term (one year), the medium term (2-5 years and the long term (5–10years). The court application calls for ongoing communication with the court and with SAVE the VAAL on progress until the sewage problems are solved.

“Going to court is always a last resort”, Stewart said. “It should not be viewed in a negative light. Our application is in the public interest. It has brought together all roleplayers, who in previous years did not co-operate as they should have. The problems we face are massive and will only be solved by a massive team effort”.

Issued by: Maureen Stewart of SAVE the VAAL – cell: 082-5705058