Category Archives: General Water Sector News from Africa

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Feature: World Bank and African Development Bank Support Mega Water Project In Rivers State Nigeria

Christian Maduka (Communications and Social Marketing Expert, PH)
March 1, 2017

Rivers State Government and the Port-Harcourt Water Corporation (PHWC) have embarked on implementing a project to provide water and sanitation services for the population of Port-Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Authorities (LGAs).

The project is part of a sector wide institutional reform embarked on by the Rivers State Government, and is planned to be implemented with parallel financing support by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Urban Water Reform and Port-Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project, and by the International Development Association (IDA), hereafter also referred to as World Bank (WB), under the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (NUWSRP3). The planned allocations to Rivers State include USD 200 million in AfDB funds and USD 80 million in IDA funds. The Rivers State Government co-financing amounts to USD 48 million.

The current population in the two LGAs is about 1.3 million, rapidly increasing, and expected to reach 4 million by 2040.

Water is central to human survival
Water is central to human survival

Currently, its citizens do not benefit from any water services of acceptable quantity, quality or reliability standards, as the water system is considered to be largely non- functional. As a result, the population obtains water from a combination of private boreholes/shallow wells (directly in their household or bought through intermediate vendors) and water sachets, with varying quality, costs and availability.

For sanitation, most households in Port-Harcourt and Obio/Akpor are served by toilets with on-site septic tanks or household pit latrines, while most public centers such as markets and lorry parks lack adequate facilities.

The project aims to improve access to safe water supply and public sanitation services in Port- Harcourt and Obio/Apkor and also to establish sound performance and long-term viability of the Port- Harcourt Water Corporation to ensure sustainability of services provided.

To this effect, the project is structured around four components: (i). Rehabilitation and expansion of the existing water infrastructure and construction of public sanitation facilities; (ii) Institutional Support covering capacity building of the recently established Port-Harcourt Water Corporation, consumer outreach, environmental protection, and longer-term planning for comprehensive sanitation services; (iii) Establishment of Public Private Partnerships for sustainable service operations; and (iv) Project Management. The population in the project area is primarily low income households, which requires special considerations in delivery mechanisms and tariff setting for affordability and sustainability.

The objective of the project is to increase access to potable water to 100% in the State. Notable projects identified in the development plan are: Port-Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Water Supply Scheme, Resuscitation and O&M of 40 water supply stations (incl. Port-Harcourt) and Hydrological and hydro-geological surveys and monitoring of groundwater in the state

For environmental sanitation, the State aims to ensure a pollution free environment and promote a healthy and sustainable green eco knowledge, attitude and practices of environmental sanitation improved and environmental standards and sanitary regulation enforced; (ii) All drainages are clean and flow freely to where they are channeled; (iii) 90% of population have access to internationally accepted excreta disposal systems, including modern sewerage treatment plants (iv) Rid the streets of Port-Harcourt of refuse sites; (v) Increase revenue base of the state through waste management; (vi) Implementation of integrated waste management system. Projects identified include: Construction of drainages in the State andWaste management (solid waste), hygiene education and promotion in 23 LGAs

Sanitation is also included and transport agenda which in aims the to “make State’s the State best in the country in terms of road network and drainage and system,” has identified (i) a comprehensive Drainage Master Plan for Port-Harcourt and Local Government Areas headquarters to be developed; and (ii) Town Planning which includes the preparation of master plans and design layouts for Port-Harcourt and other centers to face the challenge of an increasing population and inadequate infrastructure.

The Objectives of the Sector reform were to: Ensure that the existing abundant water resources of the state are provided in a sustainable and affordable manner. It appears there is a lot of water all over the state but none to drink; improve the overall efficiency and strengthen the institutions to deliver services effectively whilst maintaining standards in terms of quality and quantity. The corporation shall ensure customer satisfaction and be able to attract the right investment from the private sector; Create the enabling environment for Private Sector involvement in the water sector; and Promote the fact that water is both an economic good as it is a social good by encouraging and sensitizing customers to now pay for water to ensure the sustainability of the service for the future. Reform implementation focuses on addressing the challenges of governance, infrastructure, capacity, and funding.

The expected results from this gigantic include but not limited to the following: PHWC capacitated with the skills and tools necessary to ensure service delivery in line with international best practice, and commercial viability, A Public Private Partnership (Management Contract or similar) established, outsourcing the daily operations of the water system put in place , Pro-poor Unit established within PHWC, and the social connection fund is operational, Customer awareness raised for water conservation and the need to pay for water services, Tariffs applied that balance affordability with commercial viability and operational cost recovery, Climate Change Adaption and Mitigation plans established for PHWC operations, including Groundwater protection and monitoring, Key stakeholders (outside of PHWC) are capacitated with the skills and tools necessary to coordinate, oversee, and guide the continued and expanded water service provision in Port-Harcourt and Jobs created in relation to the scaled up water services (mainly operators)

This Project is part of 3rd Urban Water Sector Reform jointly funded by the WB and AfDB scheduled to be executed in 12 states of Nigeria. The Port Harcourt Water and Sanitation component of this Project was launched in Port Harcourt by the Governor of Rivers State Barrister Nyesom Wike on 15 April 2016 with Ramboll Environ Denmark as the Project Management Consultant. The project has long commenced with submission of its Inception Report and initial critical stakeholder’s engagement activities.

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Feature: World Bank and African Development Bank Support Mega Water Project In Rivers State Nigeria
WaterSan Perspective
A web journalism platform for WATER JOURNALISTS AFRICA, a network of over 700 water Journalists in 50 African countries

Cape Verde: Greenpeace Raises Awareness on the State Of Fisheries in West Africa

Water Journalists Africa
February 24, 2017

My Esperanza – the Greenpeace shipThe Greenpeace ship – My Esperanza has today docked at the port of Praia in Cape Verde. For eleven weeks the Esperanza will sail the waters of six West Africa States – Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal to raise awareness on the state of fisheries through political events, public engagement and consultations with the West-African science community.

The ship tour named “The West Africa tour of hope” will provide an opportunity to make these countries’ voice on protecting their own sea and marine resources heard internationally.

“By bringing the ship to West Africa, Greenpeace seeks once again to reiterate its ultimate commitment in working with local communities and governments in addressing issues of overfishing and illegal fishing that have plagued the region for decades” says the Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi.

The West African waters are among the richest in the world. Millions of people and local communities depend on them to survive. However, the population in West Africa is growing and the fish stocks are declining as a result of fishing, climate change, pollution and destruction of critical habitats.

This situation is exacerbated by the lack of efficient fisheries management in the region, illegal, unregulated and undeclared fishing activities (IUU fishing) and the weakness of surveillance systems in most of the countries.

“Overfishing and illegal fishing in West African waters is a threat to food security, fish stocks and a healthy ocean. It is critical that the collaboration between states be reinforced to support a regional approach to better management of fisheries in West Africa”, says Ibrahima Cissé, Greenpeace Africa Senior Oceans Campaign Manager.

My Esperanza - the Greenpeace shipIn the last fifteen years, Greenpeace has documented and exposed how distant water fleets and illegal vessels have moved their fleets to West Africa after overexploiting fish stocks in their own waters. Chinese, Russian and European fleets are among the most prominent in West Africa waters.

Their activities have and continue to compromise the food security and livelihoods of coastal communities who largely depend on artisanal fishing. More recently, the rapid growth of artisanal and industrial fishery without regulation or planning of their capacity has added to the problem.

“West Africa States will have to work together and act with a unified voice to safeguard their waters. A sustainable common management of resources, especially the small pelagic is a first step to guarantee fish stock for present and future generations” added Dr Cissé.

In the next two months, the Greenpeace vessel My Esperanza will work closely with local authorities to increase the sense of urgency required to deal with the current unsustainable approach to fisheries management and call for a strong Regional fisheries management system.

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Cape Verde: Greenpeace Raises Awareness on the State Of Fisheries in West Africa
WaterSan Perspective
A web journalism platform for WATER JOURNALISTS AFRICA, a network of over 700 water Journalists in 50 African countries

Zambia: New Water Project Launched

February 24, 2017

NYIMBA Member of Parliament (MP) Olipa Mwansa has commended Eastern Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC) and Devolution Trust Frund (DTF) for remaining committed to improve the lives of the people through the provision of quality water.

Ms Mwansa was launching the K2.5 million water supply project financed by the DTF in Nyimba. She noted that lack of access to clean water supply and sanitation services has a negative social and health impact on the Zambian population.

She said water supply and sanitation was not only a necessity but also a human right that if neglected could lead to loss of the lives.

“It is for this reason that the supply of quality water services to the people of Eastern Province is of great importance to Eastern Water and Sewerage Company Limited,” she said.

Ms Mwansa said the Government has continued to improve the water accessibility to all Zambians through the engagement of external donors to invest in the water supply and sanitation Infrastructure
development programmes in the country.

She said Government through the ministry of water, sanitation and environmental protection was overwhelmed by the demands for safe water in Nyimba district.

The World Health Organisation specifies 50 liters of water per person per day as the recommended ‘intermediate’ quantity needed to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses
The World Health Organisation specifies 50 liters of water per person per day as the recommended ‘intermediate’ quantity needed to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses

She said according to the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) annual report of 2015, a total of population of 83.8 percent in urban areas were being served with urban water supply while 60.7 percent were being served with adequate sanitation at national level.

Ms Mwansa noted that the figures were low stating that there was need to improve water supply and sanitation services in the country in order to achieve the vision 2030 of universal coverage.

Ms Mwansa said Government has continued going into partnership with cooperating partners on opening the doors for the rapids spread of improved water supply in both rural and peri-urban areas.

Currently the company has a customer base of 700 households adding that the 400 households were expected to benefit from the project.

Ms Mwansa however said there was still a shortfall of 600 households in areas such as Kacholola and Chipembe.

She pledged to lobby for more funds to cater for the remaining population so that they could access to clean water and sanitation services.

Speaking earlier, EWSC Managing Director Lytone Kanowa said the launch of the project was a Big milestone to the people of Nyimba.

Mr Kanowa said his company was currently providing water in seven districts of Eastern Province a well as Chama district in Muchinga Province.

He said he was happy that the company had the capacity of providing treated water to its customers.
Mr Kanowa said it was disheartening that some people had not yet utilised the services the company by connecting water to their houses.

The managing director said today his company had no districts physical presence in Sinda and Vubwi due to lack of water supply network.

And Chief Ndake of the Nsenga People of Nyimba urged all beneficiaries to pay their bills on time so that the company continue supplying quality water services.

He said the connection of water was a dream come true to the people of Nyimba district.

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Zambia: New Water Project Launched
WaterSan Perspective
A web journalism platform for WATER JOURNALISTS AFRICA, a network of over 700 water Journalists in 50 African countries

Somalia: UN Warns of Famine Danger as Drought Intensifies

Water Journalists Africa
February 18, 2017

Map of Puntland
Map of Puntland

As a devastating drought grips Somalia, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that only a massive and immediate scale-up of humanitarian assistance can help the country avoid falling into another catastrophe.

The drought that the northern regions have struggled with for the last year has now spread throughout Somalia, threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict. Almost half the country’s population, or 6.2 million people, are either severely food insecure or in need of livelihood support. It is expected that 944,000 children will be acutely malnourished this year, including 185,000 who will be severely malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving support. It is very likely that this projected number of severely malnourished children could increase 50 percent to 270,000 over the coming months.

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region, where the two agencies are delivering much-needed assistance.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed.”

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region

The ongoing drought and other shocks have left communities with little to no resources to fall back on. Whole villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die. The prices of water and locally produced food have risen dramatically, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water. The drought has also led to an increase in waterborne diseases with more than 4,000 cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea/Cholera this year.

“Humanitarian assistance has saved lives in the drought-affected north over the past year, but as the crisis spreads we have no time to lose,” said WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera. “Together with UNICEF and other partners, we are moving as quickly as possible to reach many more people with lifesaving support using every option we have, including cash-based transfers, specialized nutrition support and airlifting of relief goods.”

The agencies noted that humanitarian access remains worryingly limited in some drought-affected areas of the south, but that WFP and UNICEF are reinforcing their joint efforts to scale up the response in areas that are accessible, where millions of lives are at risk.

The agencies are responding together to the drought by providing food and water vouchers to hundreds of thousands across the most affected areas of Somalia as well as nutrition assistance. As additional resources are mobilised, this joint response will continue to expand in the most vulnerable regions.

Funds have been generously provided by international donors from Europe, Asia, North America and the UN system for life-saving services in nutrition, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.

With the growing needs, UNICEF and WFP together still require more than US$450 million to be able to provide urgent assistance required in the coming months.

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Somalia: UN Warns of Famine Danger as Drought Intensifies
WaterSan Perspective
A web journalism platform for WATER JOURNALISTS AFRICA, a network of over 700 water Journalists in 50 African countries

TCTA comes up with power alternative amid ‘war zone’ at Mintails plant

The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) on Thursday announced that its acid mine drainage (AMD) water treatment plant in the Western basin, near Krugersdorp, could not be reopened as planned on June 4.

This was owing to an escalating security threat at the adjacent Mintails gold treatment plant, where illegal miners have reportedly been stripping the plant.

The AMD Western basin plant had been out of commission since May 24, owing to cable theft and a resultant power failure that rendered a pump station out of order, as well as general vandalism caused by the illegal miners.

The TCTA, in collaboration with precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater, had, at the time, been rerouting the cable line through an overhead power line to make the cables inaccessible to cable thieves and as a means to speed up the repair process.

However, as of June 3, the cable rerouting had to be abandoned owing to a deteriorating safety situation in the neighbouring area.

TCTA project management manager Johann Claassens said in a release issued on Thursday that the Mintails site was previously secured; however, when it was placed under business rescue, the appointed liquidators withdrew the security services, paving the way for a “war zone”, with armed zama-zamas taking over in the area.

The TCTA now plans to draw electricity from a substation that is 3.7 km from the pump station. Claassens expects this solution will take between three and four weeks to fully implement.

Sibanye and the authority had considered the possibility of installing a generator, but this was considered unviable as the size of generator required would not be readily available and would be costly.

The water table is currently at about 8 600 mm below surface, rising at an average of 100 mm/day.

It is expected that by the time the pump station is put back in operation the water level will have risen by about 2 100 mm, translating to a water level of about 5 860 mm below surface.

“This would still be within the safe margins. However, with the water table rising, there is a risk of limited seepage of acid mine water into the wetland area downstream of the abstraction point due to the pumps located in the wetland also being impacted by the power outage.

“We continue to strictly monitor the water levels during this time and will implement all possible measures necessary to prevent decant of AMD into the environment,” said Claassens.

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TCTA comes up with power alternative amid ‘war zone’ at Mintails plant
Engineering News | Water
Latest news on water sector.

Unfolding environmental disaster

A security company responsible for safeguarding a gold treatment plant belonging to Mintails on the West Rand withdrew last week, citing “financial constraints”. The evacuation, which follows the liquidation of the embattled mining company and its subsidiaries, has left the door wide open to zama-zamas and looters, who are plundering the facility and driving their stash off the premises by the bakkie load.

“This is wholesale looting and scavenging of anything of value from copper cables to sheets of metal,” warned environmental activist Mariette Liefferink. “The site is under the control of heavily armed [illegal] miners who control all access to the plant.”

Watching the activity from a distance, the men and women carrying tools and blowtorches clearly know what they are doing, creating the impression that this is organised crime. This past weekend climbers, equipped with ropes, scaled the infrastructure of the upper plant.

“Steel construction was falling like nobody’s business,” said an eyewitness. “The liquidators appear to have lost all interest in securing these assets.”

The situation has descended into anarchy. The looters are not shy to shoot and in the past week, there have been several gunfights when looters felt security or outsiders were encroaching on “their” site.  

Even the police are scared to intervene. According to witnesses, the authorities have done nothing given the dangers and the large numbers of looters at the facility.

“The Hawks have been fearful to get involved with the result that this is now a free-for-all.  The looting continues with no enforcement whatsoever,” said Liefferink.

She said the most worrying aspect of the looting was the cutting and stealing of a neighbouring electrical cable to Shaft 9 – this cable powers the pump station that removes acid mine water out of the shaft and into a nearby acid mine drainage treatment plant. Millions of litres of water are pumped daily to prevent the acid mine water reaching the surface and decanting into the surrounding Cradle of Humankind.

Sputnik Ratau, the spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation, confirmed that the cable was sabotaged and stolen on 24 May.  

“Power to the Western Basin acid mine drainage (AMD) pump station, on Mintails’s property, and the AMD Treatment Plant is thus compromised and the facility is currently not operational,” said Ratau.

“If the pumping stops for a prolonged period, like a month, we run the risk of a decant of toxic and radioactive acid mine water into the surrounding Cradle of Humankind.”

The underlying rock structure in the Cradle is porous dolomite and the acid mine water could dissolve the rock, destroying valuable fossils in this Unesco World Heritage site, which is internationally recognised for its hominid finds.

This would have serious implications for tourism in the area and would inevitably mean job losses.

“Especially for Bolt’s Farm and the Sterkfontein Caves that contain our most precious fossils and we will see an acceleration in the number of sinkholes forming as a result,” said Liefferink.

Many of the residents along the water system would be affected by a decant – their water would be contaminated and their health put at serious risk because they do not have access to municipal water.

“The people there are dependent on the water systems for their drinking water, for their animals and for irrigation,” says Liefferink.

The pump station was established by the Department of Water and Sanitation in response to a potential decant.

According to Liefferink, in 2002 the western basin in the area where the mine is situated flooded, leaving acid mine water to flow out with devastating consequences. It resulted in the Tweelopies Spruit and Wonderfontein Spruit becoming radioactive hotspots and acutely toxic, putting lives downstream at risk. 

“The Department of Water and Sanitation declared it an emergency.  They refurbished the treatment plant which pumps and processes around 40-million litres of acid mind water a day,” said Liefferink.

Her other worry is that the gold treatment plant is the only real asset left and this wholesale looting does not augur well for the recovery of the R460-million environmental liability that Mintails left on the West Rand. This amount was cited in the Parliamentary portfolio committee report by the Department of Minerals and Energy last year.

But the Department of Water and Sanitation said there was no immediate risk of raw AMD decanting. “The water level in the void is around 9-metres below the surface and this is considered ample buffer capacity for now,” said Ratau.

He added that the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a State-owned entity charged with financing and implementing bulk raw water infrastructure projects, is working closely with Sibanye-Stillwater and Eskom to restore the cable. This could be achieved by as early as Tuesday (June 4). Alternative interventions are also being costed so as to achieve a permanent remedy and for armed security personnel to be deployed at the pump station to deter future attempts of cable theft or other damage to the pump station.

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Unfolding environmental disaster
Engineering News | Water
Latest news on water sector.

KZN South Coast residents still without water after April floods

It has been more than a month now that “water outages” have plagued Port Edward and surrounding areas, affecting as many as 28 000 homes and more than 175 000 people, as well as luxury tourism establishments, holiday homes and B&Bs, GroundUp reports.

Armscor, the national procurement agency for the Department of Defence, was called on this week to help solve a water crisis unfolding on the lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

With many residents and businesses unable to get tap water, the Ugu District Municipality requested the military hardware procurement agency to help fix a broken pump station that supplies water to reservoirs serving Ramsgate through to Port Edward and inland up to Izingolweni.

“We were hoping Armscor would be able to procure a new pump faster and cheaper than we could,” said municipal manager DD Naidoo. “But we have since managed to get spares from a supplier, and plan to fix the pump station this weekend.”

The South Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned about the long-term impact on the area, saying that many tourists would not revisit after having bad experiences in the area.

Chairperson of the Port Edward Ratepayers’ Association Doug Powell agreed. “Resorts and B&Bs that do not have sufficient water storage can’t accommodate guests. The loss of tourism revenue is massive,” said Powell.

A local letting agent, Sharron Norton, said many people around the country had cancelled plans to come to Port Edward during the July holiday period.

“Others are waiting to see if the problem gets fixed in time,” said Smith.

Small businesses have been hit particularly hard with many shutting down when water is not available.

Direct losses have also been incurred in the construction industry with new developments grinding to a halt.

“Concrete cannot be mixed or poured without water,” said Powell.

In outlying rural communities, people who only started getting piped water a few years ago, have resorted to collecting water from nearby streams and rivers, some of which are polluted and a health risk.

According to Naidoo, it was a small piece of metal that washed down Umtamvuna River during recent floods in late April that caused the main pump at the Umtamvuna pump station to breakdown.

“It got into the main pump and the pump obviously seized,” said Naidoo.

When operating at full capacity, the Umtamvuna station has two main pumps and a spare. It now only has a spare pump functioning.

“We are pumping water at less than half the capacity,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo said the resulting crisis followed water supply problems throughout Ugu district over the past two years, largely due to deteriorating infrastructure. The Ugu district extends from Scottburgh in the north, Port Edward in the south, and inland as far as Ixopo. It services about 750,000 people.

Asked whether the municipality had the financial resources to repair the Umtamvuna pump station and what the anticipated expenditure would be, Naidoo said: “Our biggest problem is the lack of funding to assess our water and sanitation challenges. It is totally inadequate. This financial year we will end up overspending.”

Naidoo confirmed that irregular expenditure of R243 million had already occurred as a result of normal procurement processes having been by-passed in dire situations. He said emergency provisions of the Public Finance Management Act would again be used to repair the Umtamvuna pump station. He said the repairs were scheduled to take place this weekend.

Peter Brereton, the owner of a luxury B&B, said: “The fact that they have had no spares on hand to fix the pumps at Umtamvuna speaks volumes… This is inexcusable. This is an essential service.”

Water from a borehole on Brereton’s property was used by firefighters on Wednesday when small fires broke out in the area.

“Half a dozen homes were at risk,” said Powell.

Powell recently organised an emergency drilling operation at Port Edward Primary School in search for an underground aquifer. The school has about 400 children.

On Monday drilling operations had reached a depth of 240 metres, but no groundwater reserves had been struck. Calling off the operation, a disappointed Powell said an alternative site would have to be found.

Drilling to 240 metres brought up almost nothing but dust. Photo: Fred Kockott

The borehole drilling venture is supported by local businesses, including CO Valves & Piping, a Kokstad-based drilling company, and Port Edward Caltex Garage.

Further afield, in areas such as Gamalakhe near Margate and Murchison near Port Shepstone, people complain that “water outages” have become as common as load-shedding in the cities.

Nonjabulo Cele of Murchison said water was being rationed with the supply cut from 8pm to 8am. She said in some areas a single communal tap served hundreds of people. When water ran out, people resorted to collecting river water, which was not safe for consumption.

Spokesperson for Ugu District Municipality France Zama said it supplied about 87% of rural households with water. He said the municipality needed to replace old pipes and pumps that were not up to the task of supplying the entire municipal district, but lacked the funds for this.

He said the municipality would have to increase tariffs to fund projects. In the meantime, it had little choice but to impose water shedding, said Zama.

Additional reporting by Jessica Gaba.

Follow the South Coast water crisis at This article was produced for GroundUp by Roving Reporters.

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KZN South Coast residents still without water after April floods
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Rand Water to cut water supply to two municipalities over unsettled debt

Two municipalities in Mpumalanga that breached their contracts to pay bills owing to Rand Water will have their water cut down to a trickle. 

This will be the second time in six months that residents of the Govan Mbeki municipality, which serves towns like Secunda, Bethal, Embalenhle and Trichardt, will have to cope with less water as Rand Water plans to cut its supply by about 80%.

This means that residents in high-lying areas like Secunda, Embalenhle and Bethal will bear the brunt as they will be the first to run out of water.

In December, these towns had no water for a few weeks after Rand Water closed the taps to force the municipality to pay its outstanding debt, which currently stands at R180m.

In January, the council reached an agreement with the bulk water supplier, but it failed to pay the agreed amount of R40m last month, only paying R12m.  

The residents of the Victor Khanye municipality in Delmas are in a similar position. The municipality, which owes Rand Water R100m, had agreed to pay back R87m but it failed to do so. 

Rand Water plans to cut the municipality’s water supply to only 20%.

In a letter to the municipalities, which News24 has seen, Rand Water indicated that it was disappointed about their lack of cooperation.

The company’s spokesperson, Justice Mohale, was approached for comment but he could not respond immediately.

Neither Benzi Soko from the Govan Mbeki municipality nor Sentebalent Masimola from the Victor Khanye municipality responded to a request for comment.

The DA’s Bosman Grobler said the first thing that newly appointed Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Mandla Msibi should tackle was to stabilise the delivery of basic services in the municipalities, particularly those who were unable to manage the debt they owed to Rand Water and Eskom.

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Rand Water to cut water supply to two municipalities over unsettled debt
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Cape Town council’s desalination debacle: Seawater 400% more polluted than City of Cape Town’s tender data indicated

The seawater feeding into the desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront is polluted by raw sewage from the Green Point outfall pipe and is sometimes up to 400% dirtier than specifications the City gave companies that tendered to build the plant.

This is according to Musa Ndlovu, director of Quality Filtrations Systems (QFS), the company that was awarded the contract to build the temporary desalination plant in January last year, when Cape Town was facing the prospect of taps running dry on Day Zero in early April.

Ndlovu said once they had found out about the high level of pollution, it had cost them millions to modify the plant to deal with it.

“The City gave us tender data about the feedwater – everyone that tendered had to work off the same data, not do their own tests – and we designed a plant accordingly. Then when we did tests during commissioning of the plant, we found contaminants that were not in the tender data,” Ndlovu said.

They warned the City, and then spent an additional R7m on installing extra equipment to ensure that the two million litres it produced every day met the national drinking water standards.

Breach of contract

This is one of several areas of dispute between the City of Cape Town and QFS, which has terminated its contract with the City and is now suing the City for R80m for breach of contract and for damages.

In its defence, the City has said a requirement in the tender was that the desalination plant had to be able “to cope with varying sea water quality conditions” likely to be found at the site close to the harbour entrance.

Ndlovu said desalination plants could handle normal variation in seawater quality, which was around 10%. To be on the safe side, the company had opted to build a plant that could cope with 30% variation of the seawater quality data the City had given them.

“But 400% is abnormal. We realised the variation was caused mainly by raw sewage – which the City itself puts into the sea. They didn’t disclose that in the tender specification data, otherwise we would have designed a plant fit for that purpose,” she said.

QFS has expertise in treating water contaminated with sewage: In 2010, it built South Africa’s first direct reclamation plant in drought-stricken Beaufort West, producing 2.3 million litres of drinking water from sewage effluent every day.

Ndlovu said QFS later found out that Leslie Petrik, a professor of chemistry at UWC, had written to the City in September 2017 to say the tender specifications were inadequate to produce safe drinking water, given the proximity to the Green Point sewage outfall pipe and the type of desalination plant specified by the City. 

“She warned the City that the tender data excluded sewage contamination, but the City issued the tender in November without this data.”

Sewage contamination

On March 13 last year, the company’s desalination plant, complete with modifications to deal with the sewage-contaminated water, was ready.

The water it produced was tested by the City’s scientific services and by an independent laboratory, and was found to meet the SA National Standards (SANS) 241 for drinking water quality.

But then nothing happened. 

Although Cape Town was still facing Day Zero, and the mid-March dam levels had sunk to 22% of storage capacity, and each Capetonian was restricted to only 50 litres of water a day, the City did not give the company the go-ahead to feed the 2 million litres a day of desalinated water into the system.

QFS wrote to the City several times asking for the go-ahead.

Instead, on March 29, the City’s water and sanitation department issued an instruction to QFS that it had to do a whole range of further lab tests, including tests for sewage contamination, as a “raw water baseline risk assessment requirement”.

The City offered to pay for the extra tests, because it had not been part of the initial requirement, but later said it would not pay.

“It was never a requirement for us to treat sewage contaminants. We had to spend our capital on treating the 400% abnormal feed water variation. Our plant always produced compliant water. They City has never questioned that. The City however decided not to compensate us for our plant upgrade and the high operating cost caused by them dumping sewage into the ocean,” Ndlovu said.

The City eventually gave permission for QFS to inject the desalinated water into the system on May 28 – but only 25% of the 2 million litres.

On September 4, six months after the plant was built and ready, the City finally give permission to inject the full 2 million litres a day into the system.

QFS managing director Herman Smit said the list of additional pollutants the City had told the company to test for was a “full spectrum” sewage analysis.

This proved, he said, that they had known about the sewage contamination.

“This is the only reason they delayed injection into the network. In retrospect they were very scared to accept final water as a result of the raw water sewage contamination, but never divulged knowledge thereof,” Smit said.

The company says the contract stipulates that the City would pay it monthly rental for the availability of the water, whether or not it was buying the water. It says it sent the City invoices for “rental” but these were not paid.


“So many things went wrong. We had five disputes with the City. The contract says if there are disputes the parties must go to mediation. We tried to get the City to go to mediation, but they ignored us. In the end we had to go to the High Court to get an order to force the City to go to mediation,” Ndlovu said.

“And when they arrived, they came with five attorneys and an advocate. From Webber Wentzel. The mediation process was meant to take four days, but it took five months.”

Ndlovu says the City’s advocate conceded in the mediation that it had to pay QFS a monthly rental fee.

QFS wanted a mediation report, but the City said there was to be no report.

“We think they said no mediation report because they knew that it would be evidence.”

Ndlovu said they had been left with no option but to go to court to sue the City for breach of contract for non-payment of rental, and for the extra costs incurred from sewage pollution.

“We are saying to the City: ‘Pay us what you owe us and we will go on our way’.”

Asked to comment on QFS’ claims that the City had made no mention of sewage contamination in the specifications given to companies tendering to build the temporary desalination plant, the City said it rejected any implication that false information had been supplied to anyone “deliberately”.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, said the contractor who designed the desalination plant was responsible for “taking cognisance of normal variations in water quality” and for building a plant “robust enough to accommodate raw water quality during all seasonal variations”.

She did not stipulate the percentage of variation the City regarded as “normal”.

Seasonal pollution

Limberg said the seawater data in the tender documentation was from seawater analyses done in September 2017.

“Small areas of the coastal water around Cape Town are contaminated by various pollutants. This is variable and often seasonal.”

This was normal for any city, she said. Sources of contamination were vast and included “urban run-off, household discharge, stormwater discharge, treated effluent discharge from our wastewater works, various marine outfalls, urban litter, etc”.

Limberg said the seawater was tested monthly around the sewage outfalls, and every two weeks at bathing beaches.

She maintains the contract with QFS did not include monthly rental payment.

“QFS was responsible for the cost of establishing the plant, which cost would have been recovered by QFS through the sale of water to the City,” Limberg said.

Ndlovu said the company was disappointed with the City, which had a good reputation, and they had never thought their money might be at risk with a City of Cape Town contract.

“We are trying to understand it. There must be something big behind this. We heard that the V&A desalination plant was Patricia de Lille’s baby. There have been a lot of political wars, and maybe they’re trying to kill it off – but that can’t be done at the expense of a bona fide company,” Ndlovu said.

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Cape Town council’s desalination debacle: Seawater 400% more polluted than City of Cape Town’s tender data indicated
Articles relating to Topics | water

Sudan mediation, Somalia drought, and the severity of need: The Cheat Sheet

Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.


On our radar


Ethiopian PM in Sudan mediation effort


On Friday, Abiy Ahmed began mediation talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, aimed at restarting negotiations between Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition. The urgent efforts of Ethiopia’s young reformist prime minister follow the worst violence since the ouster of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir two months ago. At least 100 people were reported to have been killed on Monday when members of the Rapid Support Forces – linked to the notorious Janjaweed militia – attacked a Khartoum protest. The protestors want immediate civilian-led rule and for militias to hand over their weapons to the army. One man holding the keys to the negotiations is Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, an ex-Janjaweed commander and the No. 2 in the ruling military junta. Dagalo, a former al-Bashir ally whose forces are accused of war crimes in Darfur, has been the lead in recent negotiations with Western diplomats.


Bad numbers in Libya


It has been two months since fighting began around Libya’s capital of Tripoli. The numbers speak for themselves: more than 90,000 people have fled their homes, 100,000 civilians are said to still be near conflict zones (41 have been reported killed, with another 116 injured since 4 April). On Monday, almost 100 people were brought out of Zintan, a Tripoli migrant detention centre where UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, described conditions as “dire.” That brings the number of migrants and refugees held in Tripoli down, but not necessarily in the country as a whole. That’s because people are still trying to escape Libya, only to end up right back where they started. UNHCR says it evacuated or resettled 1,000 people out of the country in all of 2019. Last month alone more than 1,200 people were taken to detention centres by the Libyan Coast Guard after they were rescued or intercepted at sea. Given the horrific conditions documented by aid agencies and here at TNH, these numbers are cause for concern.


Cash injection for Horn drought


A UN fund has released $45 million to combat the effects of drought in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Announcing the decision, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said Somalia would get the bulk of the funds, $30 million, after forecasters predicted a failure of the April to June rainy season. Some 2.2 million Somalis are expected to face severe food problems by September. The new allocation is roughly 10 percent of the Central Emergency Response Fund‘s annual spending. The CERF is a pooled fund whose biggest donors last year were the UK, Germany, and Sweden. The Somalia NGO Consortium warned last month that the donor reaction to new projections on food security and nutrition had been sluggish, with director Nasra Ismail describing it as “very concerning” not to see “strong commitments”. Keep an eye out next week for our Africa drought round-up, looking at southern Africa as well as the Horn.


Mergers and acquisitions


Are there too many NGOs overlapping and competing with each other? The UK manager at Mercy Corps – one of the BINGOs (Big International NGOs) – thinks so. Simon O’Connell points out that there are 115 international NGOs working in South Sudan, most with separate arrangements for accommodation, transport, and security. Adding to that apparent duplication, coordination between so many players is itself an effort, argued O’Connell in a recent commentary. The recipients of aid, and the public who are asked to fill the collection tin, may find this all less than ideal. “There are too many organisations duplicating each other’s work and needlessly competing with each other,” O’Connell wrote. To hear more about his proposals to merge NGOs together, tune in to a discussion hosted at the Overseas Development Institute this Tuesday, 11 June.


Weighing need

Until recently, there was no agreed ranking of the severity of humanitarian need – no fair way to know which place is worst off. To address the “apples and oranges” problem, humanitarian analysts have agreed on a pilot index that combines 31 variables across three “dimensions”. The Global Crisis Severity Index combines indicators of impact, conditions of affected people, and complexity. That could make for some necessary comparisons: according to this system, Venezuela is more severe than Central African Republic. These measures are a key ingredient in a new service from humanitarian needs analysts ACAPS. Its latest offering adds measures of risk and humanitarian access to the cocktail as part of a new resource called CrisisInSight.  

In case you missed it

CAMEROON: Hundreds of opposition members are still being held in Cameroon after a government protest crackdown last week. More than 350 people were arrested, including hundreds from the main opposition party. Protests have been mounting against President Paul Biya and his government over the release of opposition leader Maurice Kamto.

COLOMBIA: One third of the 6,000 FARC fighters who handed in their weapons as part of a 2016 peace accord have taken up arms again and joined dozens of “dissident” groups operating in the coca-producing regions the FARC once controlled, Reuters reports, citing a confidential military intelligence report. For more, read our recent report on dissident groups in Tumaco.

INDIA: Drought in India’s western state of Maharashtra has sent vegetable prices soaring by 50 percent in the last week, according to local media. Farmers also reportedly sowed only one third of their recent crop, while late monsoon rains are raising fears for the upcoming harvest. Several Indian states are facing the worst drought in years, which is having a life-altering impact on land-dependent farmers.

MEXICO-US: Mexico agreed to deploy 6,000 National Guard personnel to its southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants as it seeks to ward off tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by US President Donald Trump.

SRI LANKA: A Catholic Pakistani family seeking asylum in Sri Lanka is facing imminent deportation. Amnesty International fears the situation is part of an anti-Muslim backlash that has also hit refugees and asylum seekers following April’s Easter Sunday attacks, which killed more than 250 people. This week, all nine Muslim members of parliament resigned, urging the government to protect civilians from hate crimes.

YEMEN: The Yemen Data Project said it recorded 149 civilian casualties from airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia- and UAE-led coalition in May, including 41 deaths and 108 injuries – the highest figures since last October.


Weekend read


Four nights this Ramadan, under the shadow of refugee returns in Lebanon

It’s not just in Lebanon that governments are increasingly putting pressure on Syrian refugees to return: it’s happening in Turkey, in Jordan, even in European countries. Journalist Laura Gottesdiener spent this Ramadan in one Lebanese neighbourhood where such pressures are beginning to be felt acutely, especially as the government has announced plans to demolish informal camps that house around 5,000 Syrian families elsewhere in the country. What she found will perhaps surprise many. Yes, there were problems – grumbles over government incompetence, corruption, international aid bureaucracy. But Jabel Beddawi, a community of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians – almost all refugees from war – was thriving despite it all. In turbulent times, particularly for those living far from their homelands, Gottesdiener’s tale is one of hope: “At no other time of the year is the daily resistance – to hatred, austerity, and exile – more evident than over Ramadan: the Muslim holy month that ended this week and during which daily fasting transforms, each night at sunset, into collective feasts.” The illustrations themselves, from Mariam al Kotob, are a feast for the soul. Enjoy.


And finally…


Why are some crises ignored?


It’s a question close to our hearts here at TNH. A lot of what we cover falls into the neglected crisis category – whether that’s media neglect or actual neglect from governments or the aid community. Every year, the Norwegian Refugee Council publishes a list of the 10 most neglected displacement crises and this year its top three are Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. “Large-scale displacement and soaring humanitarian needs in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon have been met with deafening silence,” its report says. We wouldn’t quibble with any of the suggestions on this list, nor with the NRC’s depressing conclusion: “The level of media attention is not necessarily proportional to the size of the crisis. Even when the media does report on a conflict, the situation for civilians may be overshadowed by coverage of war strategies, political alliances and fighting between armed groups.” Click on the countries above for our latest reporting, or here for own list of 10 humanitarian crises and trends to watch in 2019.

(TOP PHOTO: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, meets with the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum on 7 June 2019.)


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Sudan mediation, Somalia drought, and the severity of need: The Cheat Sheet
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