Municipalities urged to address ageing water infrastructure

Water and Sanitation (DWS) Minister Senzo Mchunu, has called on municipalities to allocate budget for the replacement of old and ageing infrastructure, as they are the main causes of water losses and sewer spillages.

“We need to stop the leaks leading to water losses. The project called War on Leaks is closed,it does not exist. You have to declare your own war on leaks in your municipalities…. take this matter seriously and repair pipes,” Mchunu said.

Mchunu made the call during a Ministerial working session held in Mpumalanga this week.

Mchunu and his deputies, David Mahlobo and Dikeledi Magadzi met with local and district municipalities represented by executive mayors and municipal managers, as well as the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and Human Settlements departments.

During the three-day engagement with the municipalities, a number of common challenges were identified, and these included lack of maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure, ageing and dilapidated infrastructure, leakages leading to high water losses, vandalism of infrastructure, mushrooming of informal settlements leading to increased water demand and pressure on infrastructure, as well as sewer spillages and the bucket system.

While acknowledging the challenges, Mchunu however, emphasised that there is no water crisis in the country.

The Minister called on executive mayors to prioritise communities and provide them with water.

He also called for a stop to sewer spillages and an end to the bucket system, as “people can no longer be exposed to such an inhumane system.”

“We have to register the issue of stopping spillages as one priority. DWS, COGTA, district and local municipalities, go and craft a plan, do the sizing up, specify what needs to be done, how much it will cost and how long it will take.

“All affected municipalities must pledge maximum funds and then the districts and the department should chip in,” Mchunu said.

He further instructed the stakeholders to present a costed plan with committed funds to deal with the sewer spillage challenge.

Appointment of new Director-General welcomed

Meanwhile, Mchunu has lauded the appointment of new Director-General at the department, Dr Sean Douglas Phillips.

The Minister said the appointment came at an opportune time when the water sector is faced with a myriad of challenges that need knowledgeable administrators with innovative ideas to steer the ship in the right direction, working closely with the political leadership.

“Dr Phillips comes with a wealth of knowledge in the public service, and we believe that he will assist this sixth administration in its resolve to ensure access to clean water and decent sanitation for all in line with our Constitution.

“We have had our hands dirty since we joined the ship in August and Dr Phillips will complement the work that we do so that we achieve our objectives.”

Mchunu added that he is hopeful that the stability of the department and its entities will be realised with a permanent Director-General of the calibre of Dr Phillips, and issued an impassioned plea to everyone in the sector to give him all the necessary support.

Dr Phillips, an engineer by profession, has more than 20 years in senior management positions in government with expertise in service delivery improvement, public service governance and administration, infrastructure procurement and delivery management, project and programme management, and operations management, amongst others.

Source: South African Government News Agency