The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has raised concern over the widespread violation of the public’s constitutional right of access to clean drinking water and a healthy environment.
The concern comes after Outa conducted a study into maladministration within the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).
The investigation revealed that 71% of wastewater treatment facilities are noncompliant and discharge more than four-billion litres of toxic wastewater into our water resources every day, which threatens the quality of drinking water, food security and public health.
In January, Outa requested the DWS to provide the complete 2015 Green Drop (GD) report to determine the extent to which municipalities have failed to comply with legislative requirements.
“In response to Outa’s request, the DWS could not supply the report, citing a lack of human and financial resources. This is alarming, as the DWS is the custodian and regulator for all water affairs in South Africa and is obligated to ensure compliance,” says Outa water and environment portfolio director Julius Kleynhans.
Outa has further investigated the matter and according to the Auditor-General’s Annual Report for the period of 2015/16, the DWS left about R2-billion of its yearly budget unspent.
The World Water Summit, which was held last month in Durban, focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, specifically, wastewater management.
One of the SDG objectives is to improve the quality of water by treatment of sewage. SDG six aims to steer international focus on water pollution resources to protect and restore water-related ecosystems including rivers, aquifers and lakes.
The DWS’s website shows GD compliance for the period February to March is very poor, with only 26% of all municipal wastewater treatment plants in South Africa having submitted wastewater quality data.
This GD compliance report over the last 12 months indicates that 77% of wastewater discharged does not comply with microbiological waste discharge standards.
“We want government to thrive, but we are concerned about the state of water affairs and the lack of accountability. Should Outa not obtain the appropriate relief from the South African Human Rights Commission, we will consider approaching the Constitutional court,” adds Kleynhans.
Water is essential for human survival and must be protected against contamination and unhygienic environmental practices for drinking purposes. The right to a healthy environment requires the appropriate disposal of sewage where basic sanitation services should at the very least provide on-site services, such as ventilated pit latrines.
As a civil action organisation, Outa was established in 2012 to challenge inefficient and irrational government decisions.
The organisation has developed into an efficient entity with its own internal litigation capacity, researchers and investigators.
The Outa team works to challenge and expose maladministration and corruption in areas of State taxation policymaking and State-managed expenditure.