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SA: Water – use it or lose it

Johannesburg – The proposed National Water Policy Review is not aimed at taking water away from farmers, the department said on Thursday.
The water department was responding to media reports that commercial farmers believed they were under attack by Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa‘s department, spokesperson Themba Khumalo said in a statement.

According to a report on the Independent Online, white commercial farmers were concerned about the department’s plan to restrict water supply to commercial farms.

Khumalo said it was disingenuous for some media to create panic in the farming community by giving the impression that the policy was aimed at taking water away from farmers.

“The minister emphasised that authorised users, who use their current water allocations productively and efficiently, will be able to continue with their activities,” Khumalo said.

Last Tuesday, Molewa highlighted 12 policy positions outlined in the National Water Policy Review to address legislative gaps in the sector.

Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria, Molewa told reporters one of the review’s proposals was to end temporary or permanent water trading.

“It will be obligatory for any holder of an entitlement to use water, which is no longer utilised, to surrender such use to the public trust,” she said.

The principle of “use it, or lose it” would result in those with water reserves which were not being used, having this water taken by the state for reallocation, to maximise the efficiency of water use.

The reallocation of water would prioritise social and economic equity.

“[This policy] is not intended to take water from one race group [and give it] to another,” Molewa said at the time.

In her statement on Thursday, Molewa said many people were still without their basic right to water.

“It is a fact that 98% of the water available in South Africa is already allocated, while many people do not have access to water for basic human needs such as drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, as well as for food security and productive use.”

 

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South Africa: Joint Media Statement on the Process of Integrating Water, Mining and Environmental Authorisation Processes

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, Advocate Johnny de Lange has lauded the novel and innovative work currently done in integrating mining, water and environment licensing systems. Advocate de Lange was commenting during the Joint Sitting of the Portfolio Committees on Water and Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources.

The Departments of Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources briefed Joint Committees on Water and Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources on the proposed amendments to legislation and regulations to give effect to an agreement between the three departments to integrating and synchronising all aspects of the legislative framework for the application of environmental and water laws in mining areas on Wednesday, 11 September 2013.

The environment aspects pertaining to exploration, prospecting, mining and production activities which were previously outside the scope of the National Environment Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) (NEMA) are now included in the scope of NEMA and they have been removed from the scope of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).

This is a huge improvement following the commitment made by the two Ministers responsible for Water and Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources, who have also instructed their departments to work together on the necessary amendments in NEMA, MPRDA and NWA. These amendments are aimed at achieving an alignment of processes relating to mining. These are the application for mining right, environmental impact assessment and the water use license.

Ministers, recognising the fragmented approach in implementing environmental legislation relating to mining right applications, intervened and proposed, during 2011, mechanisms which would ensure alignment of the various pieces of legislation administered by the three departments in as far as it relates to mining.

South Africa as a developing state has to find a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability. After receiving a joint inter-departmental presentation on this process, the Joint Portfolio Committees endorsed the inter-governmental co-operation and lauded it as an example of the application of the co-operation and in line with the spirit of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act as encapsulated in Section 41 of the Constitution and the IGRF Act.

The optimal implementation of these legislative arrangements will provide enhanced confidence in this system and ameliorate any uncertainties about the system. The three departments have been given the task of going back and finalizing the legislation and regulations in this regard, as a matter of urgency and to report back to their respective Committees which will convene a further Joint Sitting to receive and approve the work done.

The Joint Sitting also welcomed the progress recorded to date, with the Chairpersons urging the Departments to continue the co-operation in the interest of providing certainty and ensuring South Africa develops an efficient and effective mine environmental management system that balances various rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.

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Stunted relationships undermining water governance in rural areas

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Damaged relationships and stunted professional networks are negatively affecting effective water governance, says research institution Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Water Governance Group (CSIR WGG) senior researcher Dr Richard Meissner.

The CSIR WGG is studying water govern-ance of the Greater Sekhukhune district municipality, in Limpopo, to determine the obstacles to effective water governance in rural areas. The overall objective of this Water Sustainability Flagship project is to contribute to the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of water resources and ensure South Africa attains its national, social and economic growth and development aspirations.

A common theme throughout the study is that the networks and relationships between different national, provincial, municipal and community leaders, role-players and engineers are stunted or not effective in facilitating good water governance, owing partly to the interdependence of activities of these actors in a context where trust relationships are not functioning optimally.

These stilted relationships are as a result of professional governance networks between private, public and community organisations not being historically established and not actively strengthened, which is also partially as a result of a lack of general knowledge of the roles of different role-players in the water governance structure.
“We have found neither a lack of skills nor a lack of work ethic to be significant causes for ineffective water management. “There are some skills gaps, but the workers and managers generally are dedicated and qualified.

“The main obstacles to effective water governance in the area studied is the lack of professional networks and unsubstantiated poor perceptions of other actors, leading to animosity that stymies initiatives,” says CSIR WGG senior researcher Karen Nortje.

Another key factor is the lack of understand-ing of the processes that other role-players must adhere to before they can take action.

“Problems are often reported by the various actors, but the lack of knowledge of which actors can take what actions means that reports are handed to the wrong persons or depart-ments and the lack of response leads to nega- tive perceptions, as well as apathy towards responsibility and subsequent water govern-ance initiatives,” she explains.

“Knowledge of the context in which water governance must take place and the problems faced by different actors is the first step in facilitating a broader understanding among all the actors of the roles and responsibilities of others, which will then underpin an effective network to support water governance,” explains Meissner.

Nortje says, for example, city dwellers have more knowledge of whom to report faults to. Yet city dwellers do not necessarily know to which wastewater treatment plant their sewage is sent or which dam they receive water from, which is similar to the situation in rural areas and makes water governance and accountability more difficult.

Cities have much more established and formalised professional networks, compared with those of rural areas, making water govern- ance more broadly understood and, thus, more enforceable and uniform.

“However, the rural areas that are being studied have inherited a significant number of problems. “Managers tend to be overwhelmed without a way to determine which projects or repairs to prioritise so that water and wastewater treatment can take place as part of an effective water governance structure in which communities understand how they affect and how they should use watercourses,” says Nortje.

“The CSIR WGG is working with the relevant stakeholders and our aim is to disseminate information and understanding among the different political and private struc- tures that will lead to the emergence of an effective water governance structure,” says Meissner.
The CSIR WGG gathers detailed informa-tion from the communities and public and private leaders on their perceptions of water management and governance.

“Often, it is as simple as getting the right people to meet with each other, which then establishes the individual connections and understanding that provide the fabric for effective water governance and management,” highlights Meissner.

The importance of individual understanding at community level and at all political layers is paramount to enable effective water govern-ance to occur and take root, concludes Nortje.

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South Africa: Media Statement On the Signing of a Bilateral Agreement On Water Resources Management and Water Supply Between the Minister of Water Affairs and Her Cuban Counterpart

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Mrs Edna Molewa met her Cuban counterpart Minister Ines Maria Chapman Waugh today, 9 September 2013, to sign a new agreement between the two countries in relation to water resources management and water supply.South Africa and Cuba have a long-standing relationship that includes water specific agreements dating back to 2001.

The first co-operation agreement between the Department of Water Affairs and the Republic of Cuba in water resources management, water supply and sanitation was signed in December of 2001 and was valid for five years, expiring in 2006. Under that initial Agreement two groups of Cuban experts were seconded to the department from April 2002 until August 2007.

The secondment were for two respective periods of two years and three years. These experts were spread across the department at Head office and the nine regional offices. Post the lapse of the Agreement and at the end of the experts’ secondment a needs analysis was conducted to determine the need for further engagement with and secondment of more Cuban expertise within the department.

This analysis reflected an appreciation of the Cuban expertise and therefore a re-negotiation process of the agreement was undertaken and concluded in March 2013.This new agreement is meant to assist the department in the areas of geo-hydrology and engineering services particularly for rural and disadvantaged areas, the exploitation of available water resources, infrastructure for water supply, capacity building through training and support of local staff, as well as water management and water supply.

In acknowledging the Cuban expertise that will in the long-term assist the department deliver on its mandate to the people of South Africa and to the previously disadvantaged in particular, Minister Molewa said: “I am aware Honourable Minister that in your country, there are three modes of access to safe water: family connections to pipelines, public service based on supply by water tankers on trucks, and easy access, i.e. carried from within 300 metres of dwelling places. Significant improvements have also been recorded with respect to all these modes.

“I have also noticed that as a result of a large programme for the construction of dams, including micro dams, the water storage capacity of your country increased tremendously. This has allowed for a substantial increase in the safe water coverage for the population.

We have a lot to share and exchange in the water sector, thus the need for the discussions that started way back including the first agreement between us signed in 2001. We are on the right path as a country to correct the imbalances of the past and this is a huge task that requires dedication from the men and women of this country.

However we are always mindful of our friends who are willing to lend a hand in our drive towards this ideal.”Based on the assessment of both our situations in the water sector and what we have done before, we are gathered here today to cement our long standing relations in the water sector and pave the way forward by way of a new agreement which will see us further exchange expertise in the integrated water resources management area.

This agreement was developed having in mind that South Africa is fundamentally a semi-arid and water scarce country with a mean annual rainfall of 490 mm, which is half the world average, with only 9% of that rainfall being converted to river runoff. Rainfall displays a distinct decreasing trend from east to west and is highly variable within and between years with recurrent droughts. This results in highly variable river levels, dam storage and groundwater storage over time.

“Of great importance to understand in our country is that the close interconnectedness between the climate and the hydrological cycle means that water resources will be impacted upon by climate change. This will place increased pressure on water resources and ultimately threaten the comfort, predictability and sustainability of future water availability.”

Minister Molewa acknowledged the work that officials from both countries and department did in ensuring that the signed Agreement followed and were within all legal and protocol requirements in both countries.It is believed that the work of the Cuban experts will greatly enhance the capacity of the Department as it seeks to carry out its Constitutional mandate as well as deliver on the expectations of the people of South Africa. Water being a catalyst for all socio-economic development is central to the betterment of the lives of all South Africans.

For media enquiries

Mava Scott

Cell: 0826029640

Issued by: Department of Water Affairs

9 Sep 2013

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South Africa: Is SA’s Water Too Precious to Frack With?

This week, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa confirmed that a notice of intention to declare hydraulic fracturing – fracking – a controlled activity, had been gazetted for public comment.

Other cabinet members have said recently that shale gas exploration could be authorised before the 2014 elections. And while Molewa says she wants to ensure fracking won’t damage South Africa’s water resources, critics believe this is impossible.

In South African writer Karen Jayes’ critically-acclaimed novel For The Mercy of Water (2012), water has become the single most valuable commodity in a drought-ravaged country, protected by the guards of a sinister “company”.

When the poor didn’t pay for the water, the company guards shut the pipes off at peak times, or denied them entry into the pump areas and the dams were fenced and put under heavy guard, a character explains.

But closer to the towns, the company placed stoppers – they look like little plastic buttons – inside all the taps so that the water dripped through two tiny eyes and it took seven hours to fill a bucket.

People entered into awful bargains so that each family member might drink and, occasionally, wash. Those who had the…

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Finding better ways to reduce carbon footprint in businesses

SOUTH AFRICA:

By Sumetee Pahwa-Gajjar

Businesses that strive to be environmentally sustainable must find better ways to measure and reduce their carbon footprint. Organisational goals for environmental performance areas, including the aim of carbon neutrality, and sustainability reporting are not sufficient catalysts for change. What is required is an integrated corporate resilience framework for building enterprise resilience and ecological sustainability. This interdisciplinary tool captures strategies towards lower carbon emissions alongside other performance areas, addresses the multi-faceted challenge of corporate environmental sustainability, and assists businesses to reduce their overall environmental impact. Moreover, it pinpoints deep, ecological drivers for strategic decisions in corporate practice areas of environmental performance and exposes the strategic weakness of some strategies in terms of building long-term corporate resilience.

Spier Holdings, a well-known wine and leisure business outside Stellenbosch, South Africa, may serve as a case in point. In 2009, Spier initiated an in-house project to calculate the carbon footprint of one bottle of wine, as well as the carbon and water footprints of the business itself. In the same year, Spier allowed the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University access to its business operations and environmental reporting practices to help track its progress towards environmental sustainability. Spier has established sustainability as a brand identity, declared carbon neutrality as a macro organisational goal in response to the global challenge of climate change, and sought scientifically and technologically appropriate ways of addressing this challenge.

When viewed from a complexity and systems perspective, Spier is made up of flows of energy, waste, water and information which are found across the individual business units of winemaking, leisure and farming. As a human-environment system, the business responds simultaneously to social, economic and environmental drivers. The business also responds to external risks related to natural resources (such as biodiversity and water), physical infrastructure (for sewage or electricity) and knowledge networks.

Spier has instigated some commendable initiatives. A trigger matrix system which switches off geysers in unoccupied sections of the Spier hotel, for instance, was installed soon after the 2008 electricity black-outs in South Africa. At the same time, an energy audit of the main buildings was also commissioned. Sizeable investment in a biological wastewater treatment plant on the estate was made to improve the system in line with government regulations. Over the last decade, Spier has continued to explore ways to generate clean energy on site. In the process, it has increased its own knowledge in the field of renewable energy. However, the risk of huge capital outlay in a technology which may soon become obsolete or redundant has discouraged actual investment.

Five years ago, the director for sustainable development at Spier, Tanner Methvin developed 10-year macro-organisational goals for environmental sustainability, including carbon neutrality, zero wastewater, zero solid waste, water sustainability and nature conservation. As the target date to reach these goals neared the midway mark, Spier management spun off several processes to ensure that the business was moving well towards meeting them. The processes included group environmental reporting, such as the calculation of business and product carbon and water footprints.

Carbon footprint calculation is fraught with scientific ambiguities linked to issues of scope and lack of access to information. It is biased towards savings in electricity consumption and may not capture investments made by a business in conserving nature, raising ecological awareness among its employees, or exploring alternative technologies. Water footprints can be tested with scientific rigour, but this requires extensive information about a production process and highly analytical skills for calculations. Most importantly, a business may not have control over large sections of a production process (such as the generation of grid electricity in South Africa) which impacts on a carbon or water footprint.

The managers did not realise that not all the investments and innovations that had been made towards environmental sustainability could be captured in accounting-based goals. Therefore, a compost site, which uses organic waste generated on the estate and supplies neighbouring farmers with organic fertiliser, could not be factored into a reduced carbon footprint. Neither could the indigenous trees and plants that are slowly replacing alien vegetation, or a strategic decision to convert 25% of the estate to natural wetlands. The case of Spier demonstrates that businesses in the developing South who aspire to confront challenges such as climate change and water scarcity should invest in appropriate and affordable technologies, conserve energy and water, and establish reliable knowledge networks. These will build business resilience in the face of unforeseen shocks and resource uncertainties in the future.

It is therefore more important to understand the business and its needs from a strategic, resilience-building perspective than to focus on accounting-based and marketing-led terms such as being ‘carbon neutral’. Designed on the basis of Spier’s sustainability story, the corporate resilience framework has wider applicability and can assist other similar sized businesses to reconfigure their relationship with nature.

  • Dr Sumetee Pahwa-Gajjar received her doctorate in Public Management and Planning from Stellenbosch University in December 2012. She currently works as a researcher on climate change at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bangalore, India.

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Gas-fired power plant plans develop

SOUTH AFRICA:

A new gas field south of Cape Town, Ibhubesi, could potentially be used as a source of natural gas to fuel the South African government’s plan for gas-fired power plants. The Department of Energy intends to introduce 2 600 MW of gas-fired generation to back up solar power under South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity, 2010-2030.Under the plan, the South African government foresees securing a minimum 711 MW from combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT), between 2019 and 2021 as back up for solar-power plants to improve security of supply.

The plan looks to increase South Africa’s gas-fired generation mix: expanding gas-fired power generation in the country from 2 to 11% by 2030.

The Ibhubesti gas project is awaiting approval by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa and the Department of Mineral Resources. A decision is expected by 2015. The production project could produce 28.3-billion cubic feet of gas each year for the first six to eight years.

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A third coal power station

SOUTH AFRICA:

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Cabinet has approved the building of a third coal-fired power station by Eskom essentially freeing the parastatal to take its infrastructure investment programme beyond the two coal-fired power stations currently being built.

Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies says, however, there is no time-line, schedules or costs approved for the project as of yet. He said the building of the new power station would probably start once Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile projects are complete in 2018, adding a combined 9 600MW to the national grid. Eskom has been struggling to meet electricity demand since rolling blackouts hit South Africa in 2008, costing the economy billions of rand in lost production and economic growth.

Davies says the third power station was part of the government’s overall strategy to remove energy constraints.

“We had to take a clear decision of the building of the third coal-fired power station after Medupi and Kusile,” he explains.

As the debate on introducing a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions starts to hot up Eskom says any carbon taxes generated will have to be passed on to the consumer.

This is despite a commitment by South Africa at the COP17 conference to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020, and discussions in parliament recently on the introduction in 2015 of a carbon tax in a bid to reduce emissions.

The policy paper on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions indicates a cost of R120 per ton of emissions, but every sector will be exempt from paying for the first 60%.

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South Africa’s master energy plan

SOUTH AFRICA:

Globe lightbulb image

The Department of Energy says it will have completed South Africa’s master plan for energy by the end of next year. Government has just released a draft of the Integrated Energy Plan, which is a 20 year strategy to meet the country’s energy demands. Minister of Energy, Ben Martins, has assured parliament that he will drive the process and keep MPs abreast on the plan which will inform a range of other energy policies.The plan, he explains, will affect many government departments. There is one key issue the department cannot afford to get wrong and that is forecasting energy demand which will, in turn, determine how many new power or nuclear plants the country sinks money into. A process of public hearings will kick off in the next few months.

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IMESA urges government to endorse the attractiveness of women in the municipal engineering profession

Opinion article by Frank Stevens, president of the Institute for Municipal Engineering of Southern Africa (IMESA)

I came across a striking anecdote at an engineering lecture at the University of Cape Town recently. To put the story in context, one needs to bear in mind that this was in the engineering faculty – a profession vitally needed for securing South Africa’s economic future, yet where a serious shortage of young graduates prevails. The professor asked the group, made up of 70 final BSc civil engineering students, which of them had the ambition or intention to become municipal engineers…

Not a single hand went up. More noteworthy, specifically in the light of Women’s Month is the fact that the class already existed of less than 10% women. This anecdote illustrates a serious challenge we face at IMESA. Within an already shrinking skills pool, municipal engineering is the lowest on engineering students’ radar. The notion to grow female students’ interest in the profession or promote municipal engineering as a career choice for women is even more farfetched. One may argue that municipal engineering is not a career consideration for young people at all. I’m confident that there are very few youngsters telling their parents or teachers that “I want to become a municipal engineer one day”.  Who are to blame? Perhaps the municipal engineering profession itself…

Recently, Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande announced that the number of engineering science graduates in South Africa has increased from 8 424 in 2009, to 9 387 in 2011. This may still be below the target of 10 093, but the fact remains that there are a total of 9 387 young graduates that could (and should) consider a career in municipal engineering.

Why have they not done so? There seems to be a perception that the private sector is a far more “glamorous” or “dynamic” career path, with better opportunities and higher compensation. Although there may be some truth attached to this perception, I still maintain that the lack of interest in municipal engineering is because municipal engineers themselves are not doing enough to market and endorse the profession.  Female municipal engineers, in particular, need to come to fore and claim their rightful space at South African local authority level. In the past few years, IMESA has made it our mandate to advocate and promote the municipal engineering profession.

IMESA has been successfully orchestrating its Bursary Fund to support and place young university graduates at local governments across South Africa. We engage constructively with various tertiary institutions to combat the perception that municipal engineering is an unattractive discipline. We provide extensive training programmes – introducing a fair amount of graduates to the field of municipal engineering each year. We share examples and case studies of “out-of-the-box” engineering to young graduates. These are innovative, resource-savvy municipal engineering solutions that local authorities have successfully applied at rural areas across South Africa, breaking the conventional thinking patterns of how service provision ‘ought to be’ done.

As the oldest organisation serving the municipal engineering profession in Southern Africa, IMESA realised that the value of municipal engineers to the future of this country cannot be overemphasised. We need young talent, including young female talent, to be passionate about the daunting task of service delivery. We urge all government organisations and tertiary institutions to join in the promotion of the municipal engineering profession, ensuring an uptake of brilliant young minds committed to the future of service delivery excellence in South Africa.

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