Friday, 24 January 2020

Qwaqwa: An amount of R220 million has been earmarked to address the immediate challenges of water availability in QwaQwa, Free State.

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu made the announcement during her visit to the area on Thursday.

This follows the water shortage in the Maluti-A-Phofung Municipality, which includes QwaQwa and Harrismith. The water challenge has sparked widespread protests, where residents shut down the area after the death of seven-year-old Mosa Mbele, who drowned in a river while fetching water over the weekend.

During a meeting with relevant stakeholders, including Deputy Minister David Mahlobo, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and local municipality leadership, Sisulu acknowledged that it has taken long for the issues related to water challenges to be addressed in the area.

Immediate interventions

The Minister announced a number of interventions to address water challenges in the area.

She said the department will ring fence an amount of R220 million to address this immediate challenge in addition to the R280 million allocated to Sedibeng Water. This supports the proclamation as made by the Premier with regard to drought in the area.

“We will also explore the technology to look on various aspects that will address water challenges in the province. Sedibeng will also look on residents who have necessary skills and or technology to come forward and will assess them.

“We will provide 5000 water tankers as an immediate relief within seven days to address issues of water challenge that will also assist in addressing the water harvesting challenge. This is aimed at ensuring that all households have water tankers,” the Minister said.

Sisulu emphasised that water tankering will no longer be done by the municipality [and] as resolved by MinMEC, Sedibeng Water will ensure that all the trucks are assessed and they are bought from the owners so that the function is taken over from them.

The department also agreed to equip all boreholes with immediate effect to provide water relief to the communities.

A hotline will be established to deal with all immediate challenges related to problems of water in the area, including an establishment of a steering committee to ensure that this matter is monitored and the plan is executed.

Sedibeng Water will further establish a war room to assess the progress made, and the community members will be identified to be part of the war room.

Other interventions include infrastructure upgrade, drought declaration, groundwater source development, as well as an investment in sand water extraction.

R2.1 billion pipeline

For the long term, the Minister said there is a consideration of a pipeline which will cost in the region of R2.1 billion, linking the municipality with Sterkfontein Dam.

“Sedibeng Water will do a feasibility study to ensure the realisation of this plan.”

The Minister made a commitment to come back to QwaQwa after six weeks to assess progress made with regards to immediate interventions.

She also appealed to all councillors to convene community meetings to communicate the outcomes of the interventions. – SAnews.gov.za

The shutdown, which was suspended last week, has since started again this morning and residents have vowed to intensify their protest. The shutdown continues as residents demand running water from taps not trucks as promised by government.