The provision of clean running water, ageing infrastructure, disbanded water boards and water licences will be under scrutiny as the national water and sanitation summit kicks off in Midrand, Gauteng today.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi ahead of the summit, farmers and organised agriculture called for a rapid response to what they call a ticking bomb on water scarcity across the country. This, they say, impacts the livelihoods of thousands of ordinary people and could lead to job losses.
Following years of drought, many farmers were forced to close their enterprises. While recent rains have brought some relief, the hindering aspect becomes water cuts by local authorities due to money owed to water boards.
Tenda Rasikhanya, the director of institutional establishment for the department of water and sanitation in the Northern Cape, says they were working on reducing the turnaround time for those who have applied for water licences from 300 days to just under 90 days.
“The backlog will soon be a thing of the past and we will implement our new strategy to meet the targets as set out in the new turnaround time, which is 90 days to process the application and issue the licence.”
Rasikhaya adds that government aims to eradicate the backlog of water licence applications, especially in the farming community.
‘We want action’
The head of natural resources at Agri SA, Janse Rabie, says they have held several meetings with water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu during his roadshows. The department is therefore aware of the challenges that the farming community faces.
“We have raised specific water-related issues with him and his departmental representatives. We are looking forward to hearing from the minister on implementation [and] real and immediate action,” Rabie says.
“We want action on water pollution from municipal wastewater treatment works, illegal sand and other mining, the verification and validation of existing lawful water uses, and regularising the work of water boards.”
Rabie adds that ageing infrastructure is also a critical aspect that is impacting farmers negatively. He calls on the summit to give direction on unfinished projects that are halting the provision of clean running water in rural communities.
“The completion of critical infrastructure projects [includes] the raising of the Clanwilliam dam and long outstanding work on the Tzaneen dam. We maintain an open and constructive relationship with government which we hope to build on at the national water summit.”
Meanwhile, North West premier Bushy Maape says his administration is working around the clock to ensure that the likes of Bloemhof and Taung dams continue to serve the farmers with the key intention of sustaining the agricultural economy of the province.
“We, as the province, take water as a fundamental social economic right for our people and we have established an operational centre where people phone from different municipalities every day to alert us about the water challenges they face. And we do intervene in such cases. In some instances it is just a day or two. In some areas it takes a bit longer.”
Maape describes agriculture as the bedrock of the North West economy.
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