Pledge to improve municipal water systems

Pretoria - The Department of Water Affairs has pledged to work closely with municipalities to strengthen their capacity and improve reporting on water-quality systems.

Delivering her department's Budget Vote on Thursday, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Buyelwa Sonjica said the department will redouble its efforts to multiply the number of municipalities awarded with Blue Drop certificates.

"Last year we awarded 22 systems with these certificates, our aim was to asses around 450 systems and it is edifying that so many municipalities are eager to improve both their systems and their reporting, in a bid for Blue Drop status," Sonjica said.

With the World Cup around the corner, Sonjica re-assured local and international visitors that the country's water was safe to drink.

"The 2010 FIFA Host Cities Blue Drop Certification Report on Drinking Water Quality rated all our host cities as "excellent", this is not only highly encouraging, but sets the bar at a high level for others to emulate," she said.

Turning to pollution from mining activities, Sonjica called on those responsible to account for their actions.

"There is a big problem of Acid Mine Drainage in the Witwatersrand area which threatens our ground water resources and the very integrity of the environment and human survival."

The department has set aside R6.9 million for work to be done over a three month period to avert major problems in the Johannesburg and the Vaal areas.

Sonjica emphasised that government made these interventions in the western basin to avert a catastrophe.

She said government would not sit back and allow the situation to degenerate into a crisis, adding that mine owners have an obligation to deal with environmental problems in terms of the rights and obligations they inherited from the previous owners.

"Polluters must indeed pay and in this regard we are already well ahead in consolidating a framework to deal with this matter as initiated by the Minister of National Treasury. We are also concerned about the issue of ownerless mines which is a matter we are already jointly dealing with, with the Department of Mineral Resources," Sonjica said. - BuaNews