The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on Tuesday said it recommends the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) probe the Sedibeng Regional Sanitation Scheme (SRSS) project during its investigation into the state of pollution in the Vaal river.
The SRSS is supposed to protect the Vaal river, but shifting responsibility may have allowed pollution to continue, explained Outa water and environment portfolio manager Yamkela Ntola, submitting the group’s submissions to the Vaal river inquiry.
Specifically, the organisation seeks an assessment into how the suspension and transfer of the SRSS, which is meant to reduce the spillage of raw sewage in the Vaal river, from Emfuleni local municipality to Rand Water may have contributed to pollution in the Vaal river, and the legality of such suspension.
“Outa has drawn the commission’s attention to the fact that the national Department of Water and Sanitation stopped the project from being implemented by Emfuleni local municipality in 2012 and put in place Rand Water as the implementing agent.”
An assessment of the impact the removal of the SRSS from Emfuleni and other relevant municipalities had on its ability to operate and maintain sewage networks is required, along with audited and verified reports from Rand Water on the progress of the SRSS.
The SRSS was initiated by Emfuleni to deal with the spillage of raw sewage into the Vaal river and expand the capacity of the wastewater treatment plants in Sebokeng and Meyerton, Ntola explained.
It also aimed at dealing with the discharge of noncompliant effluent into the Vaal river; the likely environmental and health effects of that pollution; the effect on economic and socioeconomic growth in the region; and the high maintenance costs and frequent failures of the old sanitation infrastructure.
“On this basis, the lack of effective implementation of the SRSS has likely contributed towards the pollution in the Vaal river, thus potentially violating or threatening the human rights of the persons residing in proximity to the river.”