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Thursday, 16 November 2023 15:37

Mchunu urges SANCOLD to play a role to shape policy position in water sector.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, has urged the South African National Committee on Large Dams (SANCOLD) members to play a pivotal role that will shape the policy position in the water and sanitation sector.

Mchunu made the call during the opening of the SANCOLD three-day annual conference held in Sandton, Gauteng, on Wednesday. 

Held under the theme: "Dams - A critical resource in present time”, the conference is set to discuss and share knowledge on various topics, including modern technologies and methods in the design and construction of new dams, dam rehabilitation, and emergency management and public safety.

Other topics include decommissioning of dams, dams for water retention or flood control, and dam safety and risk management, amongst others.

Delivering his keynote address, Mchunu said the department, as the leader in the water and sanitation space, takes all organised formations seriously, and wants constant engagements with the committee to enable it to solicit views that will propel the sector to greater heights, and realise universal and consistent water supply.

"There is a lot of demand for water, and we need all hands on deck to build new infrastructure and upgrade the existing one to meet the demands of the growing population. This requires partnerships with the private sector and organisations, such as SANCOLD because we cannot do it alone as government. 

"At the end of this conference on Friday, we will be waiting in anticipation for new and fresh ideas, and we are opening our doors to sit down with you and reflect on the outcomes of the conference and see how they take our sector forward," the Minister said.

Mchunu said the department has taken an approach that seeks to ensure that water resources in the country are developed, protected and maintained. He said all levels of government should strive to operate and manage water resources infrastructure at a world class level that meets international standards.

He emphasised that resources have to be developed and managed to meet the increasing demands for water, whether for agriculture or irrigation, mining, industrial, hydropower generation, urban development, and of late, environmental requirements. 

The Minister also reiterated that South Africa is a water-scarce country, with a mean annual precipitation of about 463 mm per annum on average (the global average rainfall is 990 mm per annum). 

"Approximately 50% of the water supplies the industrial and agricultural sector of the economy. To overcome its climatic variability, South Africa has had to build dams to stabilise water supply, "Mchunu pointed out. 

Mchunu also noted that dams have proven to be effective tools in water resource management, as they enable water to be stored for use when and where required. 

However, he argued that the department cannot be expected to build dams all over the place.

"There should be alternative water sources and water users need to act more responsibly by not wasting the available water," the Minister said.

SANCOLD's mission is to advance the science and art of planning, design, construction, operation, management, maintenance, rehabilitation, and decommissioning of dams, to develop South African water resources in a safe, financially sound, ecologically and socially sustainable manner.

Mchunu has also commended Rand Water's hard work, dedication and ability to effect directives when called upon, as water utility celebrates 120 years of existence.

He said this year has particularly been one of accomplishment for Rand Water, noting that Fitch Ratings have reaffirmed Rand Water's 'AA+' positive outlook rating.

Mchunu said the rating alludes to Rand Water’s solid financial profile and strong shareholder links, which has enabled the entity to increase its capex for the large projects it has been carrying out.

The Minister highlighted some of the entity's accomplishments, which include an unqualified audit opinion obtained from the Auditor-General, and the completion and commissioning of valuable projects such as the Vlakfontein Reservoir and Pumpstation 5A, amongst others.