Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 May 2010
South Africa faces a water crisis that could cripple economic growth and cause a plague of health problems – but critics say the government has yet to act with urgency.
The most immediate concern is the acid mine drainage (AMD) polluting a vast swathe from the Witwaters-rand to Mpumalanga. Other threats include pesticide run-off, broken infrastructure and failed sewage plants.
As the population grows and economic recovery puts more pressure on limited inland water resources, experts predict a shift of industrial activity to coastal areas where desalination plants will have to meet a growing share of demand.
Environmentalists warn that if the government and industry fail to act, within two years mine water as corrosive as battery acid will gush from Johannesburg’s Wemmer Pan and seep into the city’s streets and gardens.
“It is acutely toxic,” said Mariette Liefferink, who leads a group of non-governmental organisations lobbying for action. “It affects the soil and neural development of the foetus, which leads to mental retardation; it will cause cancer, cognitive problems, skin lesions,” she said. “These are all the foreseeable risks if we do not manage our AMD.”
Acid mine drainage, which occurs when mines close and stop pumping water out of shafts, has contaminated streams and dams on the West and East Rand that feed into the Limpopo and Vaal rivers. Treatment by utilities such as Rand Water renders the water safe, but those who drink straight from rivers are at risk. Continue reading