S. Africa to spent R14.2bn on Dams & Infrastructure Upgrade

Cape Town - Government plans to spend over R14.2 billion over the next three years vamping up dams and water distributions systems to ensure the country maintains a sustainable water-supply, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said.

Molewa singled out several mega infrastructure projects, in reply to a parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly on whether the department had identified any urgent projects as part of the government's R846bn infrastructure upgrade plan over the next three years.

So far the department has spent R5.9bn of the R29.2bn budgeted for several projects, ranging from water services projects to mega infrastructure projects, she said. The projected expenditure on water and waste water infrastructure projects is expected to rise from R2.7bn in 2010/11 to R13.6bn in 2013/14.

"The spending focus over the medium term (MTEF 2011/12 to 2013/14) will be on bulk raw water resource infrastructure to meet sustainable demand for South Africa," said Molewa, pointing out that the details are outlined in Vote 38 in the National Treasury's Estimates of National Expenditure for 2011.

The mega infrastructure projects include R16bn for the Olifants River Water Resource Development Project in Limpopo - which includes over R3bn to be spent on the De Hoop Dam and a further R13.1bn on distribution systems.

So far over R2.5bn has been spent on the project - the bulk (over R2.1bn) on revamping the De Hoop Dam. A further R2.8bn will be spent on the project over the next three years.

The other mega-infrastructure projects the department is rolling out include:
· · A R2.2bn upgrade of Clan William Dam (with R380 million to be spent over the next three years),
· · The R2bn Greater Letaba River Project which includes the Tzaneen and Nwamitwa dams (R386m)
· · Phase one of the Mokolo and Crocodile River Augmentation Project (R603m),
The R1.7bn Nandoni Water Treatment Works and Distribution project (R753m) and R720m Nandoni Pipeline project.

Included in the R14.2bn, the department would also spend R1.4bn on small infrastructure projects, over R6.4bn on regional bulk infrastructure and R730m on water services projects.

In answer to a second parliamentary question on whether the department had implemented any specific graduate development programmes over the past five years to help boost technical expertise, Molewa said her department had provided financial support, in the form of bursaries, to students studying for environmental science related qualifications.

These include qualifications in environmental management, oceanography, chemical engineering and chemistry.

Between 2006 and April 2010 the department had sponsored 133 students with bursaries, placing on average a third or more of all students across the last five years.

"After completion, sponsored students were absorbed by the department as bursars and some of them are currently employed as permanent officials," she said.

The department also recruits learners for its environmental education learnership, who are then later placed at various municipalities across the country.

Between 2006 and 2010, 640 learners have completed learnerships.

Molewa also detailed bursaries given out by three of its agencies:

· · Between 2006 and 2010, the SA Weather Services sponsored 149 students with, and had placed about two thirds of all students. Molewa said those students that had not been recruited by the weather service were continuing with their studies
· · The South African National Biodiversity Institute gave out 38 bursaries between 2006 and 2010, to masters and doctorate students, to help foster climate change specialists - placing 28% of the bursars.
· · The South African National Parks (SanParks) gave out 22 bursaries between 2006 and 2010, but has only placed one bursary student.

The department has implemented specific graduate development programmes for water care and waters and sanitation disciplines, the engineering field

At the moment the department has 19 graduate trainees within the water care, 22 within the engineering field (civil, mechanical and electrical engineers and 71 graduate technician trainees.

Molewa said the department had granted 350 bursaries in all, to students since 2007 and that 211 of these students had joined the department's learning academy, which was set up in 2007 as a response to the specific skills shortage challenge.

"It represents an investment in sustaining quality in Department of Water Affairs' human resources, thereby ensuring that in the long term, the department will remain competitive and be able to deliver on its mandate," she said.

Molewa pointed out that by December last year 103 learner interns had completed their experiential training with the learning academy.

"A new group of 36 engineering learner interns joined the Learning Academy in January and is presently busy with their specific structured training programmes," she said.

In all 241 graduate trainees had joined the programme by February this year and that all the past graduates had been placed with a mentor in the department's various directorates and regional offices.

- BuaNews