EDITORIAL | Human rights crisis is about to burst the river banks

Ideas

EDITORIAL | Human rights crisis is about to burst the river banks

SAHRC’s Vaal Dam report had barely sunk in when it started hearing presentations about Tshwane’s water problems

Editorial

Not even two weeks ago, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) sounded the alarm over sewage polluting the Vaal River system, saying there was a real possibility that Gauteng’s most vital water resource may “very well have been irreparably damaged”. This came at a time that SA should have been celebrating the fact that an abundance of rain had gifted us full dams. Last week, the Vaal Dam was more than 100% full, but its E. coli count was still high enough to send people to hospital with gastrointestinal illnesses. This compared to some six months ago when the same dam’s levels dipped below 30%. Yet we have little to celebrate.

The ink on the SAHRC’s Vaal Dam report had barely dried when it started hearing presentations from the City of Tshwane on water infrastructure problems at the Roodeplaat Dam on the Pienaarsriver, an important source for the state-owned Magalies Water that supplies potable water to areas north of Pretoria, including Hammanskraal. On Friday, the SABC reported the city told the SAHRC it needed some R9.2bn to fix its water infrastructure “challenges”.

Communities living by Pienaarsriver and the Roodeplaat Dam said there were myriad problems. There was a lack of clean drinking water in the area, but there was also a problem with “aggressive alien weeds that the various departments failed to address”, said community representative Hedrik van Staden. Basically, it has become an unhealthy place to live in. “There is a lack of a clean, health environment for the people living next to these water sources due to contamination,” said Van Staden...

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