Work on Vaal river system rehabilitation project gets under way

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 has said. 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 going forward. The defence force embarked on rehabilitation assistance in October after it emerged that the communities in Vereeniging, Sebokeng, Boipatong and Sharpeville face alleged water pollution caused by raw sewage flowing into the river from pump stations 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; however, Mapisa-Nqakula told media during a site visit last week that much progress has been made over the course of 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. The first priority work has started on two of the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant’s four primary sedimentation tanks. After three weeks, there is expected to be a visible improvement. In addition, the region formed 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 said 57 high-priority municipalities have been identified for intervention; however, not all of them will actually require SANDF intervention. Around R5-billion had been set aside for this. The recovery plans for the municipalities, including Emfuleni, envisages teams to be dispatched to municipalities 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 the reticulation of services. The defence force will be stationed in the Emfuleni municipality until December 2019; however, the region will not be declared a military zone.

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