Urgent action needs to be taken across the water, wastewater and waste management sectors in South Africa if the looming water crisis is to be diverted, say industry experts.
Stakeholders across the water, wastewater and waste management sectors report growing frustration at the lack of progress in averting crises, despite years of discussion and planning. Pointing to critical failures in water and wastewater service delivery and a looming crisis in landfills and waste management in much of the country, experts say South Africa appears to lack the will to take real action.
The experts, speaking in the build up to water, sewage, waste and raw material management trade fair IFAT Africa in November, emphasise that sustainable action plans must be implemented as a matter of urgency, with the government committing to enabling these plans, and independent regulators assigned to enforce their implementation. By moving now to address water and waste management problems, South Africa has an opportunity to delay or even avoid crises and also to spark much-needed job creation in many sectors.
Urgent action needed on Water Master Plan
The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, designed to guide the water sector with investment planning for the development of water resources and the delivery of water and sanitation services, does address key issues, but falls short in some respects – notably that it is built on outdated data, the situation has changed since it was drafted and little or no progress has been made in implementing it, stakeholders say.
They urged the government not to delay further and instead of attempting a massive and costly effort to address all challenges at once, to immediately start rolling out ‘quick win’ initiatives. Independent regulators to oversee the environments would be key to overcoming the current challenges, they noted.
“A plan without action is nothing really. If the goals of the water plan were achieved, we would see employment, empowerment, an improvement in the quality of water as a natural resource. But, you need the political will and intent to start the process, and the funding will follow,” says Wayne Taljaard, Managing Director at WEC Projects.
Progress in the water and waste sectors are foundational to driving investment, economic progress and job creation, say stakeholders.
Benoît Le Roy, environmental, technology & project alchemist: “Water is a fundamental economic enabler, so to attract investment you need to address the water challenges. A real problem is that all of our infrastructure is ageing, and by a decade ago our water reserve was 98% allocated. Investors know this and without water security, they won’t invest.”
“Government at the national level understands…