[Debate] (Fwd) Latest in SA water anti-rights: pit toilets (Carol Paton) and commercialised services (Mary Galvin)
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Apr 13 09:43:36 BST 2012
(Not noted in this first report on sanitation chaos is that the *World
Bank first pushed for pit latrines for 10% of SA's population* - an
explicit sewage-line services apartheid policy for those with less than
R800 monthly income - in its late 1994 Municipal Infrastructure
Framework, a position accepted by Valli Moosa and his national team
running local government. Meantime Kader Asmal and his team in water
affairs did next to nothing on sanitation, just a co-pay incentive that
didn't work. So anyone bragging about SA meeting MDG goals on
water-sanitation has to answer the tough question: if millions of
taps/pits were installed/dug, today /*do they still work?!* /As Asmal's
successor Ronnie Kasrils found out, after asking David Hemson for
research support since his own team didn't DO monitoring and evaluation,
a vast proportion of Asmal's taps were failing: at one point 45% were
below short-term RDP standards, and if one considers the medium-term RDP
objective of a tap in each house/yard, then nearly /all /Asmal's famous
taps failed that test by the mid-2000s. In this context, the failure to
move beyond fast-filling pits and towards a septic tank and ideally a
biogas digestion system - that would supply cooking-methane to rural
households in kraal-type arrangements- is another tragedy of water
neoliberalism. And that general policy of water neoliberalism is set to
be amplified by the Pretoria regime's collaboration with *Coca-Cola, the
World Bank's International Finance Corporation, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Swiss
aid, the notorious Veolia and the notorious World Wildlife Fund*, whose
SA chapter is chaired by... Valli Moosa. And meantime the single largest
user of SA water, Eskom, is building the world's largest new coal-fired
climate-destroying power plants with extreme water guzzling
requirements, and the provider of the boilers to Eskom is Hitachi, whose
year-long delays may be related to the fact that its local affiliate has
a junior 25% partner - the ANC's Chancellor House - that knows not all
that much about boiler-making, and the man who served on the ANC finance
committee while chairing Eskom when that ridiculous deal went down was
... Valli Moosa. Who is also now head of the UN's special committee
investigating Clean Development Mechanism policy - and Eskom announced
it would attempt to get CDM financing for these coal-fired power plants
in 2010, while Moosa was in the chair. What a multiply-corrupted
situation, stretching from policy to programmes to practices to payments.)
Perverse effect of rural pit-toilet grant
Published:2012/04/10 10:40:17 AM
THE government is spending R8000 a shot to build new ventilated pit
latrines for rural households when all that is needed is R700 to empty
the pits of existing ones.
The result --- at a micro level --- is that many rural households now
have several toilet structures in their yards, including ones with full
pits that need to be emptied.
At a society-wide level the result is equally bad: very slow progress is
being made in undoing the backlog of 2,4-million households in the
provision of decent sanitation as the toilets that have been built since
1994 steadily fill up and become unusable.
This is the perverse result of an attempt by the government to
accelerate the delivery of sanitation by providing more money for it
through a R1,2bn rural household infrastructure grant. The terms of the
grant --- set by the Treasury --- are that it can only be used for the
construction of new toilets and not to empty the ones that are full.
The emptying of ventilated pit latrines --- the pit toilet which
conforms to government standards in areas where there is no water-borne
sewerage --- is the responsibility of municipalities, says Treasury
spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane, which must use their operational budgets
to do so.
But Phillip Chauke, the acting head of the national sanitation programme
unit in the Department of Human Settlements, says as many as 50% of
municipalities are not emptying toilets, especially those in rural parts
of the country.
He estimates that half of 2,4-million households that are defined as
being part of the backlog already have recently built toilets, but these
are full. The life span of a pit latrine is between five and eight years
before the pit must be emptied.
"Once a household has got a full toilet, they are by definition without
a toilet. There are many, many municipalities that tell me they already
have toilets, what they need is help emptying them. Either they don't
have the funds, the equipment or it is not working. But the conditions
of the money are that we are not allowed to do that.
"So instead when we see a household in this situation, we are spending
(much) more than we should. Most of the existing structures are still
very strong. But if the municipalities can't come and empty the toilet,
then we build a new one to give that citizen the service," says Mr Chauke.
The perverse outcome of the rural household infrastructure grant is not
the only problem compounding the sanitation backlog.
In 2009, President Jacob Zuma shifted responsibility for the sanitation
backlog from co-operative and traditional affairs to human settlements
under Tokyo Sexwale.
The transition caused delivery to grind to a halt. Concerned about the
"unacceptably slow progress" of the Department of Human Settlements, a
report by Parliament's portfolio committee on human settlements last
August showed no progress was made at all in the first year in which the
programme fell under Mr Sexwale.
The parliamentary committee expressed alarm again this year when it
emerged that at the end of the third quarter of the programme's second
year, only 20% of the funds had been spent.
Apart from the developmental importance of good sanitation, proper
toilets have been a constant demand among poor communities and last year
emerged as a prominent election issue.
Mr Sexwale responded by establishing a high-profile task team headed by
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to investigate the sanitation backlog.
The team has presented an interim report, says Mr Chauke. Mr Sexwale
granted it another six months to complete its work.
Mr Chauke, who took over the unit in August with a large spending
backlog, says delivery has accelerated significantly but the programme
is likely to end the fourth quarter with about R80m --- or 30% of its
budget --- unspent.
A report prepared for the South African Human Rights Commission, which
is also holding hearings on sanitation, last month made the "startling
finding" that "although access to sanitation is increasing", up to 28%
of households are at risk of service failure or are experiencing service
*Is South Africa outsourcing its water resources strategy to the
By Mary Galvin <http://canadians.org/blog/?author=18>, Thursday, April
Private sector involvement in water services has been the face of
struggle over the last decades. With growing attention to the scarcity
of water and its importance as a resource, the private sector has
shifted its focus to water resources. Although certainly a
generalisation, many companies are land and water grabbing, developing
new technological solutions, and asserting itself into key decision
making forums at the national and international level. Their agenda is
to establish a level of control that will extend and secure their
profits for decades to come.
South Africa is in the process of updating its National Water Resources
Strategy, which should guide water sector approaches and policies. Yet
while all stakeholders await the long promised consultation and
participation on this strategy, the Department of Water Affairs has
established a far-reaching strategic partnership with big business, to
the exclusion of public interest groups and local government.
At the World Economic Forum on Africa in late 2011, South Africa
announced its partnership with the Water Resources Group (WRG), an
influential public-private global network on water. Its key partners
include The Coca-Cola Company, International Finance Corporation,
Nestlé, PepsiCo, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Veolia
The focus of the WRG in South Africa appears technical. It is framed by
the expectation of Water demand rising by 52% over the next 30 years
alongside declining water supply, "largely attributable to urban and
industrial growth" (since "South Africa has enacted legislative action
freezing growth in agricultural water use demand"). Its two key focus
areas are described as:
"*1. On Water conservation / demand management*
* Increasing water use efficiency (in agriculture, industry and
* Leakage reduction from distribution networks (municipal and others,
*2. On Diversifying the water mix*
* Reuse of effluent
* Desalination (sea water and acid mine drainage)
* Use of groundwater (development and sustainable management of
groundwater resources, in particular for rural areas)"
Consistent with these focal areas, "a small public-private task team
will explore the potential for industry-municipality collaborations to
upgrade and rehabilitate inadequate / deteriorating *wastewater
treatment infrastructure* (noting however, that wastewater treatment
remains the responsibility of municipalities). This exploration will be
placed within the wider economic analysis of the contributions such
collaborations can provide to closing the water demand/supply gap by
The main aim is to identify a pipeline of potential projects and a
strategy for their replication, as well as establishing public-private
To oversee progress on these projects, a South African Strategic Water
Partners Network will be co-chaired by the Director General of the
Department of Water Affairs and a representative from South African
industry. The NEPAD Business Foundation will coordinate its activities
and monitor progress. Although seemingly multi stakeholder, it is
comprised of government and business/ industry/ finance, with civil
society organisation representation limited to the World Wildlife Fund
South Africa (which has never participated as a stakeholder in national
water sector events).
The South African Water Caucus, a progressive group of CSOs and social
movements, has written to the Minister expressing its concern:
"We believe that the DWA-WRG partnership will severely skew priorities
away from public interests (including the right to water, protection of
water catchments, etc.) and towards private ownership and control of a
resource that is becoming ever more precious and precarious in terms of
sustainable use and access. By requesting the partnership, is the
Minister outsourcing the DWA's strategic thinking to the private sector?"
It is not the process per se, but the implications of process that are
concerning. The Water Caucus highlights the following concerns:
* The lack of transparency in this process may perpetuate government's
historical lack of transparency in engaging with business-- and its
impact: "Guaranteeing low-cost water to profit-seeking companies
will make it near to impossible to meet requirements of the water
* "Handing over groundwater resources cannot be done through private
contracts or partnerships prior to rigorous impact assessment,
analysis, public debate and inclusion in an agreed NWRS." Worldwide
we have seen how lowering of water tables through extraction, often
by a single company, can have devastating impacts on poor people who
rely on borehole water.
* The promotion of *desalination needs careful consideration* in light
of its contribution to climate change due to high fossil-fuel
derived energy use and local environmental impacts.
* The need to question assumptions about South Africa's 'growth path'
and whether certain uses of water are socially, economically and
environmentally acceptable. Examples include bottled water, tree
plantations, and agrofuel crops.
"Partnerships" with the Water Resources Group now exist in Jordan,
Mexico, India, and South Africa and are being developed with China and
other countries. They appear poised to become national arms of the
"green economy" in the water sector.
If we do not find a way to ensure that national water resources
strategies are socially and environmentally sensitive, we may find our
struggles in water services delivery to have been the tip of the
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