National register of polluters necessary to deal with water pollution, says DWS

15th April 2024 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The establishment of a national register of polluters will be key to dealing with the pollution of the environment and water sources in South Africa, says Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu.

This emerged as one of the resolutions of a workshop on ‘Water Services Authorities impacting the Vaal River’, where he told delegates that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) was set to deal with pollution “head-on” for the benefit of the environment, business and communities.

“A National Register of Polluters is necessary in measures to make people to account for their transgressions. We want those in positions of authority, mayors [and] CEOs of companies to have their names put there in the register so that they account for the neglect that leaves our rivers polluted,” he said.

Another resolution is the urgent establishment of a sectoral forum of experienced individuals to help arrest the situation and devise practical ways of ensuring that the current state of the Vaal river system is a “thing of the past”.

Further, forums focusing on other systems will also be established with the same objective.

“The Vaal river is not just a vital water source, it is a lifeline for our communities, industries and ecosystems. Its health is under threat from various sources, including wastewater discharge, and it is imperative that we collaborate effectively to mitigate these impacts and protect this invaluable resource for future generations,” Mchunu said.

All spheres of government need to resolve to deal with pollution of water sources and the environment, and the approach should include prevention, early detection and rapid response, restoration, collaboration and research and innovation.

Unpacking these, he said that measures to prevent the introduction and spread of alien invasive species should be implemented, including raising awareness among the public and enforcing regulations on the import and sale of potentially invasive species.

The development of monitoring programmes to detect invasive species early and implementing rapid response measures to control their spread, including manual or chemical methods, is key, along with the rehabilitation and restoration of native vegetation and ecosystems in the areas impacted by invasive species to help to restore the ecological balance of the river and improve its overall health.

Working collaboratively with other stakeholders, including government agencies, nongovernmental organisations and local communities, to address the issue of invasive species, will also be critical.

This could include sharing resources, knowledge and expertise to develop effective management strategies.

Lastly, he highlighted supporting research and innovation in the field of invasive species management to develop new and improved methods for controlling invasive species and restoring native habitats.