The South African Minister of Water and Sanitation, Gugile Nkwitini, has revealed that water pollution poses the single biggest threat to the country’s water security and quality. The abundance of informal settlements that have been established along South Africa’s rivers is a major contributor to this pollution, due to the lack of formalised waste management services at these communities, says Nkwitini.
He shared these sentiments at the launch of the Development Cooperation of Partners Platform. This launch took place at the Department of Water and Sanitation’s commemoration of World Water Day 2019. Nkwtini has called on all South Africans to change their thinking and behaviour around water issues.
Education and inspection are the first steps to better water quality
The department will initiate education campaigns that will teach communities about water pollution. Nkwitini says that communities need to be educated in order to understand the importance of water quality, especially in water-scarce regions of South Africa. These communities also need to be shown the dangers that pollution and plastic waste pose to water sources.
He has tasked senior managers in the department to visit numerous areas of the country and establish the quality of water. Their findings will be documented and shared with the Water Research Commission (WRC). Continual inspection of the rivers and dams will be an important factor in tackling water pollution.
Major polluters will be dealt with
The chief executive officer of the WRC, Dr Desighen Naidoo, agrees that water pollution is among the top five serious threats to the economy. He says that factories and big businesses have been identified as major polluters of rivers and dams. Naidoo has called for municipalities to invoke the National Water Act and to start dealing with businesses that dump chemicals, effluent and waste into water systems.
Naidoo also says that municipalities need to support recycling facilities and help to establish better collection and recovery of recyclable waste. A lot of this waste currently gets washed into rivers, so all nine provinces need to set up Catchment Water Agencies to help ensure water security.
Water is a scarce commodity in South Africa – most of the provinces have suffered from the effects of low dam levels and droughts over the past decade. We need to protect our dams and rivers in order to keep the water clean and free from pollutants. While the government and private institutions work towards better water security, the responsibility also lies with every South African to keep waste out of our rivers.
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