Sunday, August 29, 2010


The following letter appeared in "The Herald" newspaper on 31 August 2010.

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs has confirmed that the Baakens river is polluted (The Herald, 27/08/2010). While there is lots of analysis, nobody seems to be accountable for the mess and trying to fix it. On 09 May 2010, cyclists encountered sewage spilling into the Baakens river at construction works on the Abelia Crescent pump station. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) was informed and a Mr Gouws indicated that nothing could be done as the contractor was away for the weekend. The date seems to coincide with the highest reading for f. coliforms in Water Affairs samples (The Herald 27/08/2010).

The construction on the Kragga Kamma sewage line is a listed activity and a full environmental impact assessment was apparently conducted at considerable expense to the tax payer. On 11 May 2010 I directed requests for copies of the Environmental Authorization to Mr Govender of the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs. Mr Govender indicated that the matter would be investigated. I have yet to be provided with an Environmental Authorization or a report on progress in respect of the investigation, despite follow up requests. In early August I found more evidence of sewage spills, raised safety and environmental issues, and provided photographs to Mr Govender. A response has not been forthcoming.

In early August 2010 I indicated the sewage issue to Mr Jorum Mkosana of NMBM and raised concerns about a motorcycle race which was planned for a critical biodiversity area in the Baakens valley. The motorcycle race was held, with municipal approval on 21 August 2010.

So what is the point of this? We spend millions of rand on environmental studies only to dump sewage into the river. We hold municipally approved motorcycle races in critical biodiversity areas which explicitly forbid motorcycles through signage and bylaws. We are simply failing in our responsibilities!

* Mr Gouws, how can sewage be allowed to spill into the Baakens because contractors are not available?

* Mr Govender, how come nobody has been prosecuted and why can't I get a copy of the environmental authorization?

* Mr Mkosana, how could your department permit a motorcycle race in the valley and why can't you stop the sewage spills?

* To the responsible Environmental Consultant and Control Officer. The taxpayer has provided considerable sums to finance your studies and oversight aimed at protecting the valley. How can you profit when sewage continues to spill?

My questions are directed at individuals as accountability only takes place when responsibility can be attributed. However, I am just as responsible, as I allowed the situation to persist. You see, on 09 May, after witnessing the spillage, I went to the Police Station wanting to lay a charge against the municipality. For selfish reasons, I did not persist with laying the charge and for that failure, I am responsible.

In the face of multiple failures, it becomes all to easy to blame government, god or others. If we all simply did our jobs, this sort of thing would not happen. From the official to whom our natural areas are entrusted, to each individual who uses the valley, we all have responsibilities. Every citizen whose sewage drains through the valley, has a responsibility towards its protection. I, like others, have failed, because I never laid that charge when I should have!

Article as published in The Herald on 31 August 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment