KZN water boards merger rejected

2013-11-05 00:00

MUNICIPALITIES in KwaZulu-Natal have rejected plans by the Water Affairs Department to reduce the number of water boards in the province from three to two.

This comes as the department plans to consolidate 12 existing water boards into nine viable regional water utilities to strengthen the development, management and maintenance of regional bulk water infrastructure.

In terms of the plan, only the uMhlathuze and Umgeni water boards would be retained in the province in 2015.

The area of operation for Umgeni will be extended to include that of the Uthukela water board, which was established in 2004 as a regional water service provider for the uMzinyathi, Amajuba, Uthukela and Newcastle municipalities.

The department has labelled Uthukela a poor performing institution with no solution to address regional water infrastructure backlogs.

However, the proposal was opposed at a meeting of Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube and KZN’s 61 mayors last week.

uMkhanyakude District Mayor Jeffrey Vilane said he did not understand how Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa had reached her decision. He said even three water boards were insufficient for KZN, and that the uMhlathuze water board would be unable to service his district municipality and their uThungulu and Zululand counterparts in line with the proposed arrangement.

The mayors also voiced concern over water boards outsourcing infrastructure projects because of critical shortages of skilled professionals, especially water engineers. They said some municipalities have built enough capacity to handle the services now provided by the water boards. There was also concern over the impact of the proposed plan on the revenue base of some municipalities.

Dube said the rationalisation of the boards was planned at a time when some water boards still had billions in their budget that should have been spent on bulk infrastructure. She said there was a need for provinces to be given some legislative powers over water issues.

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