Water crisis gets worse

2016-07-18 10:58


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Pietermaritzburg - It is a disaster.

That is the opinion of the Greytown mayor Thami Ngubane of the town’s dire water situation.

Ngubane has now admitted that the municipality is partly to blame for the situation faced by residents of the parched town.

Three weeks since Greytown’s taps ran dry, residents took the mayor to task last week over the water crisis the town faces.

Greytown residents gathered at the city hall at a public meeting held by Ngubane on Thursday to discuss the drought situation the town and surrounding areas are facing.

Ngubane said things had “gone from bad to worse” regarding the water available to locals.

“Our main source of water has been Lake Merthley but since the drought the water levels have dropped dramatically and as a response to this, we had to implement water restrictions,” he said.

“Last year, we decided to have water in the taps from 4 am to 8 am and then again at 4 pm to 8 pm.”

He said as 2016 came around, it was decided that to preserve the water the taps would have to be switched off, with the town’s main source of water coming from Jojo tanks placed around Greytown.

“Judging from what we have seen, not all of us have heard the call to preserve water,” he said.

“Some tanks have been destroyed with lots of water being lost in the process …”

He said the town had started drilling boreholes before the taps were shut off but soon noticed the boreholes were drying up. “We looked at the factors behind this and saw that many private boreholes were being drilled.”

Ngubane then admitted that the failure of the Craigie Burn dam pipeline project, which would see a pipeline from the dam to the town, came from the municipality’s “own weakness”.

Earlier this year The Witness reported scores of sites where reservoirs and pipelines for the project were being built, but the construction sites had been abandoned.

The Witness visited one site and saw metres of pipeline lying in the open, half-dug trenches, and an abandoned, half-built reservoir with its structural plans lying muddied and torn on the floor of an empty container.

At the time, The Witness was told that the project had not been abandoned and contractors were still working, although there had been delays.

“Umziyathi had no municipal manager for a year and was without a mayor for a while due to the instability within it,” said Ngubane. “This has resulted in Umzinyathi being unable to fight their weaknesses. Some of the contractors appointed to work on the pipeline did not do the job properly and have not done the project justice.

“Because of our own weaknesses, we have not delivered in time,” he said.

He said three contractors had been terminated and they were in the process of appointing new contractors.

in the meantime, he said, a project called Phase Two that was using nine new boreholes to transfer water to the town should be completed by July 22.

Residents in attendance at the meeting asked who the new contractors were and if the appointment had been political, while others asked why pop-up carwashes were being allowed to operate next to the tankers meant for residents to collect water.

Another resident asked why cars with Durban and Pietermaritzburg number plates were being allowed to collect water from tanks that were the life blood of the community.

The municipality responded that the new contractors could not be named as they had not been appointed and the appointment had not been political.

They also said that a single man had been employed to monitor the water tanks and to ensure residents did not abuse the water.Water and Sanitation Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said although the pipeline project had been delayed, orders to accelerate the scheme had been given to the contractors.

“Three contractors are only working at specific spots along the 36 km route, which gives the false impression that the contractors have abandoned the sites, yet in effect the work is ongoing,” Ratau said.

“The total cost of the project is expected to be R500 million. To date approximately R220 million has been spent.”

He said Umzinyathi Municipality had undertaken to expedite the construction by holding fortnightly meetings on site to monitor progress.

The department will also be assisting in monitoring this programme.

“The project is currently 48% complete. All pipes will be buried by December 2016 and water delivery to Greytown will start in July 2017.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water

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