R240m cash injection to fix polluted Vaal River, but it still isn't enough

The polluted Vaal River. (Picture: www.fse.org.za)
The polluted Vaal River. (Picture: www.fse.org.za)

The SA National Defence Force's (SANDF) intervention at the severely polluted Vaal River has received a whopping R240m cash injection, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) heard on Wednesday

However, there is still a shortfall.

The SANDF deployed soldiers, among them specialist engineers, to find solutions to the contamination of the Vaal River, after untreated waste made its way into the river causing blocked drains and flowing into local community members' homes and into streets.

The SAHRC initiated an inquiry in September, which ended on Wednesday.

At the inquiry on Wednesday, the Department of Water and Sanitation said much effort was being made to ensure that the SANDF had the support it needed.

Provincial head of the department, Sibusiso Mthembu, said R1.1bn was needed to fix 39 pump stations and three water treatment plants in the Vaal.

"We are now just waiting for the final approvals. They have already been discussed with Treasury, and once the papers are signed, the funds will immediately be made available," Mthembu said.

READ:  Vaal River pollution: 'There have been challenges to compliance', Sasol says

Over the weekend, the SANDF revealed to eNCA that it was unable to continue due to a lack of funding.

But after hearing Mthembu's submissions, the commander responsible for the Vaal mission, Colonel Andries Mahapa, said he was happy that the department was making resources available.

"This is good news. We are happy that there will be some money available for us and that will somehow speed up the process.. as we are now using the funds of the defence department which were not budgeted for this mission," said Mahapa.

Mahapa and Mthembu made a joint presentation before the SAHRC on Wednesday.

READ MORE: SANDF sends more engineers to sort out Vaal River contamination

Mahapa added that despite the financial constraints, there has been significant progress in the cleaning of the water treatment plants in the area.

"We have cleaned the Sebokeng water treatment facility's primary settling tank module 3. [It's] 100% clean, which has not been clean since 2008 or 2009.. and within two months, we will be done with module 5".

Mahapa said that the raw sewage which flowed through streets led to airborne diseases.

"But should the situation not be restored to normalcy, definitely people are going to die," Mahapa warned.

The commander said that he hoped the mission would be completed by the end of the next financial year which, is in March 2020.

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