The construction industry, working in collaboration with the State, has to identify sustainable interventions to deal with the infrastructure challenges faced by South Africa, Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Zulch Lötter said on Wednesday.
Speaking at an infrastructure conference, in Muldersdrift, he noted that government departments, in the past, chose ad hoc and unsustainable solutions to try and deal with the infrastructure backlogs they are facing.
Lötter reiterated the many infrastructural challenges in South Africa, highlighting the backlogs in water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the deteriorating road systems.
Many municipalities were not performing satisfactorily and technical expertise in government has declined significantly between 1990 and now.
Urgent intervention was needed to increase the number of technical professionals in government, said Lötter.
He emphasised the importance of adequate infrastructure for a developing country such as South Africa, noting that this was integral to improving economic growth.
Further, a lack of adequate infrastructure also deterred foreign investment in a country.
Lötter asserted that the construction and consulting engineering sector had the capacity to assist the country in dealing with the infrastructure backlog it faced.
Cesa members employed a collective 21 000 people, while the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors employed a collective 153 000 people. Post the World Cup, capacity utilisation by both the consulting engineering sector and the construction sector have also gone down, leaving ample capacity to become involved in new projects.
WATER AND SANITATION
Meanwhile, UK consultancy MHW provided the conference with information on how the UK had dealt with its significant water and wastewater challenges in the past 25 years.
MWH water sector director for Europe and Africa, Cath Schefer, said that the UK's water sector had faced similar challenges to that of South Africa's water sector about 20 years ago.
This included low performance delivery, inefficient procurement systems, a lack of maintenance and skills shortages, among others.
MWH technical director for environmental regulation Chris Barker said that water utilities across the UK had since the 1980s been significantly rationalised, while utilities in England and Wales were privatised and those in Scotland entered into public-private partnerships.
This has led to improvements in service delivery, as £80-billion had been invested in improving the water and wastewater sector across the UK since 1989.
Barker noted that it was important for water utilities to make the pricing of water to customers more visible to ensure that they better understood what the funds were used for.
Further, he emphasised the role that consulting engineers could play in developing and influencing policy that drives infrastructure investment.
Meanwhile, consulting engineering firm Soderlund & Schutte director Alain Jacquet highlighted that it was beneficial for the construction and infrastructure development sector to move towards a more collaborative approach, with the design and construction phases of projects becoming more integrated.
University of Witwatersrand (Wits) director of capital projects Spencer Hodgson noted that such collaboration has been beneficial to the development of its current R1,5-billion project development plans.
As enrolments at Wits were expected to grow to 30 000 students by 2012, the university had to expand its facilities.
It was developing about 40 projects ranging in value from R1-million to R490-million. The projects were partially being funded through infrastructure grants provided by the Department of Education.
The projects included a R40-million Africa art museum, an R80-million professional development centre and R140-million public health building.
Wits was also building a R490-million 1 200-bed residence and converting the Charles Skeen stadium into an undergraduate science centre, at a cost of R178-million.
The science centre would comprise five lecture halls and 1 500 seats, as well as a laboratory building with 1 100 bench spaces.