Pretoria – The Water Research Commission and the OR Tambo Municipality have set their sights on providing the country and the rest of Africa with a road map to ensuring water security issues do not become the next pandemic.
They announced this vision following the signing of a memorandum of understanding yesterday to work together to resolve the municipality’s water and sanitation challenges.
Chief executive of the commission Dhesigen Naidoo said as a national entity that provided a general support service to the country around research and innovation matters associated with water, they possessed a huge repository of knowledge of how water could be better managed.
Naidoo said that in recognising that a huge part of the problem lay within the operations of local government, they had taken a decision to work with the South African Local Government Association.
He said they took things further by going to specific municipalities to implement direct interventions with them.
He added that they believed that achieving water security in a municipality could result in reasonable economic activity.
“If you have water supply that is no longer a constraint, you deal with problems of business development, unemployment and to some degree problems of inequality as well.
“The end result is that you can have prosperity inside the municipality on the back of having water security that is very high, such as Singapore, that has built its entire economic model on its own water security, and we think that can be replicated in so many other places,” said Naidoo.
He said the decision to rope in the OR Tambo District Municipality was due to the fact – and criticism – that a lot of their efforts went into the large urban areas.
“We don’t want to neglect where a large part of the population of this country is, which is in rural districts.
“This municipality is from a poor province with low levels of resources, and the bottom line is that if we can get it right in a place like that, generally, the other municipalities won’t have an excuse.
“We want to get in there and build the right models, capacities and have the right investments that empower the people to have sustainability in the long term, and replicate that everywhere else in this country and possibly the continent.”
Bongani Matomela, director in the office of municipal manager Owen Hlazo, said the MOU signing marked an important pact, especially in the context of the district development plan, the main objective of which is to bring stakeholders together to ensure that issues of service delivery are promptly addressed.
Matomela said that as a district they also had the highest population in the country, and achieving success with them could also benefit other places such as the Vhembe district, also battling with water supply.
He said the partnership would enable them to deliver some evidence-
based information so they could ultimately provide influence from a policy point of view.
“This partnership will hopefully demonstrate how and what needs to happen in the entire country to ensure that we look at various options in terms of the policies needed in rural areas for water security,” he said.
Matomela said the district was plagued with huge backlogs of water and sanitation, and they needed partners to come up with innovative ways of accelerating resolving those backlogs.
“Our area has various issues, as some areas have droughts while others have high rainfall, so we need to use the research so we can supply the basic water and sanitation needs of our people and improve their lives.
“The pandemic exposed that we need to accelerate those programmes, but also build civic education so people know of the numerous options available instead of relying solely on surface water supply.”