‘Billions needed to solve SA sewerage problems’

2010-04-30 07:59

Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica says her department needs at

least R23 billion, and probably closer to twice this amount, to sort out South

Africa’s collapsing municipal sewage treatment works.

Speaking at the launch of the Green Drop Report, she told

journalists this was the amount needed to fix just more than half of the

country’s dilapidated waste water treatment plants.

The report assessed 449 of the country’s 852 waste water treatment

plants. It found only 32 of them qualified for the so-called Green Drop status,

broadly equivalent to them complying with international standards.

Responding to questions, the minister said she did not know if the

funds could be obtained.

“I met the Finance Minister (Pravin Gordhan) and we agreed that we

would be working together, looking firstly to identify what we would regard as

hot spots that need urgent attention and put together a programme that will be

... given to Treasury.”

The Green Drop Report highlights a looming crisis in sewage

treatment in South Africa, especially in rural small towns.

Among its findings are that “the bulk of the (waste water

treatment) plants can be described as poor to non-functional”.

This implies that hundreds of millions of litres of untreated or

inadequately-treated sewage is being illegally discharged into rivers and

streams across the country each day, mainly by small-town municipalities.

Such sewage spills, together with high levels of E. coli – a

bacterium associated with human faeces – have been widely reported from water

sources in many parts of the country in recent months.

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