NEWS / 11 AUGUST 2018, 09:25AM / SHEREE BEGA
The large-scale pollution and degradation of the Jukskei River is a metaphor for a “failed state” at national, provincial and municipal level, believes water resource expert Professor Anthony Turton.
“The only way to turn it around is for the regulatory authority, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), to implement the law without fear or favour, for the provincial government to exercise its oversight role in a way that is consistent with the Constitution and for the municipal government to show political will to listen to the grievances of the people on whose behalf they have been mandated to govern.”
Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau says its regulation branch through its Gauteng and North West operations has engaged with the City of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and City of Joburg to address the water quality issues in the Hennops and Jukskei rivers and finally into the Hartbeespoort Dam.
In October last year, the department issued the Northern Farm sewage works with a directive for polluting the Jukskei.
Discharges from collapsing infrastructure at municipal level and the surrounding informal settlements of Alexandra and Diepsloot, he says, have a “wider water pollution implication” than discharges from wastewater works in the river’s catchment.
Last year, a report commissioned by the Gauteng government warned that dysfunctional and malfunctioning wastewater treatment infrastructure and the diffuse release of effluent from unserviced settlements in the province requires “serious, urgent intervention” to reverse the degradation of rivers, wetlands and dams.
The researchers found an “overwhelming negative trend” in the condition of provincial water resources from the poor and irresponsible management of human activities, and has warned of the increase in dangerous faecal coliform concentrations in local waterways since 2011.
For the Jukskei’s catchment, the pollution into the river and tributaries such as the Klein Jukskei, Braamfontein Spruit and Sand Spruit – arises from sewage inflows in the Joburg CBD, Alexandra, Northern Farm; several private residential estates; the industrial commercial estates and informal settlements of Kya Sands, Mswawa, Elandsdrift and Zandspruit, among others, says non-profit Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers (Armour). Suburban densification is another problem.
Armour works towards responsible management of rivers and waterways in Gauteng, says Anthony Duigan, a founding member and chairperson. By working with responsible authorities within the Jukskei-Crocodile-Hennops catchment and the Klip-Blesbok catchment, it works towards achieving clean rivers and waterways.
“We want to be a voice for water and encourage the public to be the same.”
“The acronym illustrates that while we are activists, the objective was to challenge and co-operate, not only to point fingers of blame,” says Armour founding member Mark McClue.
“Very quickly, though, we realised, far from it just being authorities, it’s people in the city who are also responsible for pollution … and we see a strong part of this being about education.
“We need to all start taking active responsibility on our pieces of the river.”
Themba Gadebe, Ekurhuleni spokesperson, says the main water quality issues are sewage spillages, resulting in elevated e.coli and nitrate concentrations. “The secondary water quality issue in the Jukskei is the high sediment load and turbidity, caused by increased erosion rates.”
Its water quality section, he says, will continue to monitor the water quality of the Jukskei at key sampling points and continue with its preventative maintenance programme in the area where “problematic sewer pipelines are cleaned and inspected for possible defects”. An appointed consultant will investigate the Bruma outfall sewer system, he adds.
Jukskei River facts
* Seven main waterways feed the catchment of the Jukskei River.
* The river has a more than 77650 hectare drainage area covering more than 250km of river and streams alongside over 35000km of stormwater and sewerage lines, serving millions of residents from Joburg’s CBD to Hartbeespoort Dam.