How to dump a dam?

2018-10-30 16:53
A file image of Midmar Dam.

A file image of Midmar Dam. (Umgeni Water website)

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How do you get rid of a dam?

It’s not that easy, as Umgeni Water has discovered.

The water provider is trying to clear up an administrative minefield as it seeks to dispose of Henley Dam and land around it, which has been occupied illegally.

And while Umgeni Water accepts it can’t do anything about the thousands of illegal occupiers there, it is trying to protect lives by stopping people from living on the dam’s basin.

The water utility has now applied to the Pietermaritzburg high court for an order interdicting people from erecting structures at the basin. In addition, it also wants the Inadi Traditional Council to stop unlawfully allocating land situated in and around the dam to the community.

The case was adjourned for Umgeni to supplement its court papers.

The utility’s legal manager, Tshepo Maake, said in court papers that there were more than 2 000 structures at the dam.

“It is now inconceivable to remove all the invaders of the Henley Dam property, considering the number of houses that have already been erected,” he said.

Maake added that to make matters worse, the Msunduzi Municipality has provided basic services, like water and electricity, to the occupiers without “embarking on the requisite enquiries” and seeking Umgeni’s approval.

He continued that the National Water Act prohibits the erection of dwellings too close to the flood line and the safety of the dam is the responsibility of Umgeni Water. Maake said that the latest Henley Dam safety evaluation report gives the dam a “high hazardous potential rating”.

The properties erected near the basin of the dam were also constructed in contravention of provisions of the National Environmental Management Act. Therefore, Umgeni only brought the application against those who have erected or who continue to erect dwellings near the basin of the dam as there “exists a real threat to lives and to the properties”, he said.

Maake added that Umgeni will have to bear the brunt of such risks in the event that they materialise.

He said while the water utility is sympathetic to the plight of homeless people, it appears that those who may be affected by this application are not homeless. This is evident by the pro-longed period and nature of the structures currently under construction.

Going into the dam’s history, he said that it was traditionally used to extract and supply water to consumers within the municipality.

However, in 1997, it was decommissioned and is no longer used for that purpose.

In 2008, a decision was taken to dispose of the dam. That same year “encroachments” started to happen at the property through the local chief of the Inadi Traditional Council.

Maake said that the municipality’s valuation of the property was R23 million then. Msunduzi’s executive committee resolved to approve the sale of the property by auction at a reserve price of R23 million.

However, this was halted because the Inadi traditional council’s chief, Nkosi S.G. Zondi, offered to buy the dam.

Umgeni Water wrote to the council stating it would only accept an offer of R23 million and if no offer was forthcoming, it would dispose of the property. Maake added that an auction was then scheduled for February 2011.

However, it was halted after the auctioneers informed Umgeni of the numerous dwellings that had been constructed on the property and that it was unlikely that any potential purchasers would be interested given the encroachments.

Maake said that Umgeni had instructed a firm of attorneys to get a court order to evict the unlawful occupiers. This, too, never went according to plan because the office of the premier intervened and voiced concerns about the possible mass removal of so many people, he said. Umgeni Water then decided to donate the land to the Ingonyama Trust Board.

“These efforts did not yield any positive results,” he said.

In 2012, Umgeni tried to assist the community residing on the land to form a trust in order to have the land transferred. This never happened.

Umgeni then decided to sub-divide the land at Henley Dam to keep a smaller portion of the land around the dam in order to enable it to exercise better control.

However, the municipality did not allow this. Maake added that Umgeni has tried to find a peaceful resolution to the encroachment but has failed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  umgeni water

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