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Sewage pollution floods World Water Day

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) raised concern over the widespread violation of the public’s constitutional right of access to clean drinking water and a healthy environment. The concern comes after OUTA conducted a study into the maladministration within the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

An investigation has revealed that 71% of waste water treatment facilities are non-compliant and discharge more than 4 Billion litres of toxic wastewater into our water resources every day – threatening the quality of drinking water, food security and public health.

OUTA has requested the DWS to provide the complete Green Drop Report of 2015 in January so as to determine the extent to which municipalities have failed to comply with legislative requirements.

“In response to OUTA’s request, the DWS could not supply the Report, citing a lack of human and financial resources. This is alarming, as the Department is the Custodian and Regulator for all water affairs in South Africa and is obligated to ensure compliance,” said Julius Kleynhans, Portfolio Director of Water and Environment at OUTA.

OUTA has since investigated the matter and according to the Auditor-General’s Annual Report for the period of 2015/2016, the DWS left approximately R2 billion of its annual budget unspent.

The World Water Summit, currently underway in Durban, focusses on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically, wastewater management. One of the objectives is to improve the quality of water by treatment of sewage. The SDGs aim to steer international focus on pollution of water resources to protect and restore water related eco-systems including rivers, aquifers and lakes.

The DWS’s website provides a glimpse on GD compliance for the period of February 2017 to March 2017. The website indicated that only 26% of all municipal wastewater treatment plants in South Africa have submitted wastewater quality data. This GD compliance report over the last 12 months indicates that 77% of wastewater discharged does not comply with microbiological waste discharge standards.

“We want government to thrive. But we are concerned about the state of water affairs and the lack of accountability. Should OUTA not obtain the appropriate relief from the South African Human Rights Commission, we will consider approaching the Constitutional Court,” added Kleynhans.

Water is essential for human survival and must be protected against contamination and unhygienic environmental practices for drinking purposes. The right to a healthy environment requires the appropriate disposal of sewage where basic sanitation services should at the very least provide on-site services such as ventilated pit latrines.

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