DA: Minister in denial over 'looming' water crisis

Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks is guilty of “denialism” when she says South Africa is not facing a water crisis, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday.

The country faces serious problems stemming from polluted water sources and the poor management of dams, sewage works and treatment plants, DA local government spokesperson Willem Doman told journalists in Cape Town.

He was speaking at the launch of a DA report entitled Storm Warning: A Looming Water Crisis, which includes proposals to deal with the problem. A copy of the report has been sent to Hendricks.

Doman’s colleague, DA environment spokesperson Gareth Morgan, said the crisis is currently localised, but if left unattended could spread.

“The minister has said there is no crisis. I think what we can certainly say is that there are localised crises, and overall there is a looming crisis.
It may be a case of denialism.”

Asked if he was saying Hendricks was indulging in denialism, Morgan said: “Yes, you can say that.”

Early last month, responding to a Sunday newspaper report, Hendricks sought to assure the public there was no water-contamination crisis.

“The ... [report] presents a gloomy picture of the state of water in South Africa and says that we are facing a water crisis similar to that of electricity. Fortunately, we are not,” she said at the time.

Doman said Hendricks is “relying on information from people who don’t have the necessary skills and don’t recognise potential dangers in this regard”.

Morgan described the DA report as an “honest warning in good faith”, and said he hopes Hendricks will respond to it.

According to the document, there are three main aspects to South Africa’s water problems.

“Firstly, the rivers, underground aquifers and wetlands that feed water into storage dams are increasingly polluted, and sometimes contaminated with chemicals that have potentially dangerous effects on human and animal life.

“Secondly, our dams ... are being poorly maintained, with the consequence that many structures are weak and pose a risk of collapsing, and are becoming increasingly silted up.

“Thirdly, at the end of the chain, our water and sewage infrastructures are old and dilapidated, and too little is being done to maintain them.”

Among the solutions offered in the report is that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry take a harder line with municipalities that fail to maintain their water and sewage systems properly.

Another solution is the establishment of a national water-problems hotline for use by the public.—Sapa

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