KZN government fails to warn South Coast rural communities about sewerage spill

By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health:

THE DA is shocked by the blatant lack of action by KZN’s Health department and the Ugu District Municipality in warning the public of the latest sewerage spill in Harding which began last week Tuesday.

Since then, the Shepstone Street sewerage pump station has been overflowing raw sewerage into the Umzimkhulwana River.  Steps to fix the problem on were only taken after the DA contacted the Ugu municipal manager directly.

Most alarming though is that no public warnings have been issued to those living downstream of the spill – this despite numerous communities in Hluku, Nqabeni and Izingolweni still using the river for drinking water as a result of Ugu’s failure to provide piped water into rural areas.

The DA has begun receiving as yet unconfirmed reports from downstream farming communities and tribal authorities of increased cases of diarrhoea, possibly due to drinking contaminated river water. According to information received, the sick have been taken to the local clinics.

I will today write to KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, calling for an urgent investigation into these claims.  Should there be a connection between these cases and the current state of the river then increased health support must be given to local clinics and hospitals to cope with the situation.

This latest disaster follows a string of similar sewerage spills in the Ugu District, all of which have been caused by years of neglect and lack of maintenance.

The DA regards the current situation as unacceptable.  Every individual is entitled to clean drinking water and an uncontaminated living environment.  Failure to ensure this basic right for the rural communities of the lower South Coast is indicative of an ANC government which is prepared to put the wellbeing of people at risk.

We expect KZN’s Department of Health and the Ugu District municipality to urgently issue a warning to communities surrounding the Umzimkhulwana River to avoid the river water.