28th July 2006
Eco-Care Trust on the Pollution in the Vaal River
It was with shock, disappointment and dismay that Eco-Care Trust learned in the Beeld newspaper of 28 July 2006 of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s (DWAF) stance that “fish kills occurs on an ad hoc basis and that DWAF can not always be present to notice incidents of pollution.”
The public is, in terms of the Constitution, entitled to an environment not harmful to their health or well-being and to the protection of the environment by way of measures which prohibits pollution and ecological degradation. In addition, the National Water Act (NWA) states that:
- The purpose of the Act is to ensure that our water resources are protected, used, conserved and managed taking into account the protection of aquatic and associated ecosystems and their biological diversity and the reduction and preventing of pollution and degradation of our water resources;
- As the public trustee of our water resources the National Government (DWAF) must ensure that our water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner, for the benefit of all persons and in accordance with its constitutional mandate; and
- the Minister is ultimately responsible to ensure that water is allocated equitably and used beneficially in the public interest, while promoting environmental values.
It is clear that the fish kills in the Vaal River occurs in specific places only, namely at specific sources of pollution, such as pipes and other conduits carrying waste water. The exact location of these sources of pollution is known it is therefore not necessary for DWAF to guess where possible problems could occur.
The latest fish kills are proof of the inadequacy of DWAF’s Vaal River monitoring. It is not enough to rely on information from the public and the industry to regulate itself. As a matter of fact, it is incomprehensible that DWAF rely totally on data provided to it by industry with regards to the quality of water discharged into the Vaal River and using such data as an excuse not to monitor the river.
Eco-Care is adamant that DWAF should monitor the water quality at strategic points in the Vaal River on a daily basis. The public is also urged to report all incidents of water pollution to DWAF. The contact details for responsible persons at DWAF can be found on ecocare.org.za or on Fishingowl’s water crime website.