Work on the Vaal River System rehabilitation project, in Sebokeng, is now under way after a technical team from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) completed its assessments, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says.
Following the deployment by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni of SANDF technical teams to restore infrastructure, including dysfunctional plants and substations, at the polluted Vaal River System, the team has, over the past three to four weeks, assessed the issues and produced a final report on what needs to be done.
The defence force embarked on rehabilitation assistance in October after it emerged that the communities in Vereeniging, Sebokeng, Boipatong and Sharpeville faced water pollution caused by raw sewage allegedly flowing into the river from pumpstations in the Emfuleni municipality.
While there is a lot of rehabilitation work ahead, owing to a range of challenges, including a lack of maintenance, ageing infrastructure, a lack of capacity, growing populations and vandalism, Mapisa-Nqakula told media during a site visit in November, much progress had been made over the last two decades.
“It is not as though nothing was being done, but there may not have been as much capacity as was required,” she noted.
Priority work has started on two of the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant’s four primary sedimentation tanks.
Visible improvement is expected after three weeks.
In addition, the region forms part of a larger intervention service, with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) requesting SANDF special basic services intervention across 57 municipalities.
Cogta Deputy Minister Obed Bapela says 57 high-priority municipalities have been identified for intervention; however, not all of them will actually require SANDF intervention.
About R5-billion has been set aside for this exercise.
The recovery plans for the municipalities, including Emfuleni, envisage teams being dispatched to reinforce governance and build long-lasting capacity and sustainability, improve infrastructure and expand new services, as well as correct historical misalignment between bulk and reticulation services.