Minister to face charges for failure to protect water resources

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 17 June 2010

The East Rand-based Environment and Conservation Association is preparing to bring criminal charges against Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica for her failure to attend to pollution that is contaminating the Hartbeespoort Dam.

Hartbeespoort dam water quality

Nicole Barlow, the chairwoman of the association, said the organisation’s legal representatives were finalising a comprehensive draft of criminal charges to be laid at the Rustenburg police station against the minister and President Jacob Zuma for their failure to uphold section 24 of the Constitution, which requires the government to protect water resources.

“The issue of the pollution of the Hartbeespoort Dam has been going on for a very long time, stemming mainly from untreated sewage and acid mine drainage from the mining companies in the Witwatersrand,” Barlow said.

Despite limited resources, the organisation had been conducting quarterly tests that found that the fish in the dam were bleeding from the nose, mouth and gills, she said.

While her organisation remains frustrated at the government’s approach, earlier this week Mariette Liefferink, of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said she was happy the issue of water pollution would be treated as “a matter of extreme urgency” by the government.

However, Barlow pointed out that the pollution at Hartbeespoort Dam was a separate issue to the problems that Liefferink’s organisation had encountered on the West Rand.

Eugene Cloete, the dean of the faculty of science at the University of Stellenbosch, said the major pollutants of the Hartbeespoort dam were coming from untreated sewage with phosphates and nitrates.

“The runoff fertiliser from farming has contributed to this pollution. It will take many years, a lot of human capacity and a lot of money to rehabilitate,” he said.

Cloete said he understood the frustration of the conservationists because the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs had taken too long to solve the problem.

He said there were chemicals that could be used to kill the algae and wipe out phosphates and nitrates. The algae were growing because they fed on the phosphates and nitrates.

“The pollution at the dam has been a hindrance in its development because it was the second-most popular tourist destination after the Waterfront in Cape Town,” Cloete said.

– Lucky Biyase

Read: Minister responds to charges for Hartbeespoort pollution (28 June 2010)

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