Declare dams as National Key Points to ensure water security in SA

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Several ministers who have headed the Department of Water and Sanitation have made calls for the country’s dams to be declared national key points; this includes the current Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu.

Upon her appointment mid last year, Minister Sisulu said she would ask Cabinet to declare all major dams as national key points in a push to increase security around the country’s scarce resource. However, this is yet to materialise. I digress.

Annually, the last Sunday of September, the world observes World Rivers Day; this year will be no exception. South Africa joins in this commemoration and the Department of Water and Sanitation releases a report which reveals the state of rivers in the country. In recent past, the report lays bare the state of our rivers and the filth they are clad in a cringe-worthy reality.

Although less is to be desired from what the report will say again this year. I say this as I continue to see the increasing water pollution taking place on water sources across the country.

Last year, the River Ecostatus Monitoring Programme (REMP) report by the Department found that at least half of the country’s rivers needed urgent remedial action for rehabilitation.

Recently, I was disheartened upon learning of unused Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) found dumped in one of the most polluted rivers in Pretoria, the Hennops River. Adding to this criminality, dumping the equipment on the already depreciating river was a mere act of barbarism. A depiction of how rivers are undervalued in the country. Not that throwing away the much needed unused PPE was right.

Perhaps the utter disregard of water sources is the thinking that water comes from a tap. Benjamin Franklin once well-articulated the worth of water when he said: “when the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”

It is for this reason, that I implore Minister Sisulu to advocate and rally her colleagues to persuade the Cabinet to declare dams and other water sources as national key points. Water is an essential resource and its use is increasingly coming under scrutiny as shortages increase, not only in South Africa but across the globe.

To address this, Minister Sisulu has said that the Department would implement the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, which is the country’s plan to secure water for all by 2030 and beyond.

While speaking on a panel discussion with world leaders during the online Stockholm World Water Week last month, she also said that the Department was working with one of its entities, the Water Research Commission (WRC) to come up with innovative ways to improve the provision of water and sanitation services across the country.

Even with impeccable innovations and world-class infrastructure development, the country’s dams are much better off declared national key points because they are indeed, of national importance. The vandalism of water infrastructure and pollution will definitely be a thing of the past.

Perhaps only then, when the declaration is made official, will we truly understand the great value of water.

By Lebogang Maseko- Maseko is a buddying social media practitioner and works for the Department of Water and Sanitation.