Before you sign, come to Parliament, Minister Mokonyane

By Leon Basson MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation:

The DA will today request that the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, table before Parliament’s Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee the Department’s plan to build acid mine water desalination plants to the tune of R10 billion.

Minister Mokonyane is expected to sign her Department’s multi-billion-rand treatment plant plan early next month.

However, experts in the industry have reported that this “pump and treat” plan is ill-considered, economically unfeasible and environmentally unsustainable. The DA will request that the Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Mlungisi Johnson, invite South Africa’s leading scientists and experts in the field to present their concerns in relation to the Department’s plan.

A key concern, according to experts, is the exorbitant cost of treating acid mine water to a potable standard.

Whilst we understand the enormous risk our country faces with regard to water shortages and thus that an urgent plan is required, we must approach the solutions in a holistic manner that will see the next generation benefit from our interventions – and one that does not result in crippling costs.

The Department last month estimated that there is sufficient water in Gauteng until 2018, but thereafter there will be insufficient water to continue the dilution process of mines in the western basin – leaving Gauteng and the Free State completely dry.

As this long-term plan will be implemented by both the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Mineral Resources, the DA will also be submitting the following parliamentary questions to ascertain more facts:

  • How much money will both departments be contributing to the construction and operational costs of potential desalination plants;
  • How will the funds for these plants be raised and what are the consequences for programmes within the departments that might be cut;
  • How do both departments intend to involve the private sector in the construction and implementation of said projects; and
  • When is the expected commencement and completion date for these plants?

Acid mine drainage poses a major threat to residents, particularly in Gauteng. Human lives, livestock, crops and the environment at large will be affected. The DA urges Minister Mokonyane to table this plan before Parliament as a matter of urgency in order for swift but careful action to be taken to address these issues.