Friday, April 30, 2010

A waste water crises?

The existence of a waste water crises is denied despite mounting evidence of mismanagement and neglect in waste water treatment systems.

Crises and denial has been a persistent theme in the last few years and one that was explored in an earlier blogpost two years ago (see Denialism and crises). This is what we wrote back then:

At least we have certainty about one thing. The next time there will be critique on a politically sensitive issue in South Africa, chances are good that it will be denied. It becomes a trend:

HIV does not cause AIDS (see here and here). There is no electricity crises (see here, that was 2006!). Poverty in South Africa is not increasing (see earlier blogpost). There is no crises in Zimbabwe (see here). There is no looming water crises (see here), and the latest:

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has rejected the findings of a report showing SA is not on track to meet its millennium development goals for reducing child and maternal mortality. (see article and earlier blogpost)

This trend is continuing as a crises in SA's sewage system is denied. Contrary to what the results of an audit by government on 53% of South Africa's 852 waste water treatment works tells us. Here are a few snippets from Politicsweb on the issue:

only 32 of them qualified for so-called Green Drop status, broadly equivalent to them complying with international standards

hundreds of millions of litres of untreated or inadequately-treated sewage is being illegally discharged into rivers and streams around the country each day, mainly by small town municipalities.

The SA Medical Journal's news section, Izindaba, warned in August last year that the country was "sitting on a health time bomb caused by outright neglect of its water and sanitation systems".

85 percent of South Africa's sewage system infrastructure was "dilapidated" and the overall neglect of the country's water and sanitation systems "will cost R56 billion to repair"

the minister said she did not know if the funds could be obtained.

reported increases in diarrhoeal diseases and child deaths to areas of the country where sanitation and water systems have broken down.

only two municipalities had been charged, one in North West and another in the Free State.

Green Drop Report strongly identifies skills shortages at waste water treatment plants as a major problem, saying these exist at all levels of management.

The real crises is one of leadership. The disturbing trend is that this crises seems to be deepening.

No comments: