'The Vaal River system has deteriorated and should be declared a disaster area'

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Gauteng says the Emfuleni District remains both an environmental and a health risk.

The commission on Thursday carried out an inspection at the Vaal wastewater treatment plants in the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

Read: SANDF deployed to resolve poor waste-management of the Vaal River system

Gauteng Provincial Manager of the SA Human Rights Commission Buang Jones talks to Bongani Bingwa on #702Breakfast about the situation.

The situation has deteriorated. We witnessed an unfolding environmental disaster and in fact, this area should have been declared a national disaster last year by the government.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

We are disappointed with the slow pace of progress. We have noted that there is some improvement when it comes to security, but as it is now we are not happy and the situation is even worse than when the commission started with its own inquiry in September last year.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

He acknowledges the military's assistance but says the challenge is Sebokeng wastewater treatment can only treat 10 megalitres of sewage., whereas it should ideally be able to manage 100 megalitres.

And the other raw sewage ends up in the street, this is very concerning and I am not sure what feedback the minister will give as the situation is worse than it was.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

He says the commission's visit was intended to observe the current situation of the Vaal River system before it can release its report.

The report will be released in June and that report will make specific directives to government and will make other announcements which will tell us how we will maintain and protect our wastewater treatment in the country.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

The Vaal River crisis is beyond the scope of the Emfuleni Local Municipality's capacity, he adds.

One recommendation from the commission will be to call the ministers of defence and water and sanitation ministers to come and account for work done since the commencement of the commission's inquiry.

Budgets were reprioritised to deal with the disaster, however, he insists the situation of the ground has not improved.

As a result of our own inquiry, the Minister of Finance made an announcement during his mid-term budget speech. In our discussion with the military, they said if we get all the money, we will be able to address this situation.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

At the moment, only R61 million of the military's funds have been utilised because the Department of Water and Sanitation has not released the R1 billion that is meant to address this disaster.

Buang Jones, Gauteng provincial manager - SAHRC

The allocated funds need to be released, he concludes.

Listen below to the full interview:


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