Minister Mchunu Rejects Call for State of Disaster, Advocates for Improved Municipal Funding to Address Water Infrastructure Crisis | Infrastructure news

In response to the worsening state of wastewater treatment plants, Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu has asserted that he will not request President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a National State of Disaster. Mchunu emphasised that municipalities receive substantial annual funding, amounting to billions of rands, specifically designated for the repair and maintenance of water infrastructure.

In a bid to tackle the challenges facing collapsing water infrastructure, Mchunu outlined his strategy, announcing the introduction of the Water Services Amendment Bill. According to the proposed legislation, only entities possessing water licenses would be permitted to operate wastewater treatment plants.

Despite the dire condition of many wastewater treatment facilities, Mchunu is adamant that a national State of Disaster declaration is unnecessary. In his statement, he affirmed, “The Department of Water and Sanitation is not of the view that the President should declare a National State of Disaster based on the deterioration of wastewater treatment facilities to facilitate an urgent revamp of sanitation infrastructure across the country.”

Mchunu highlighted the financial support allocated to municipalities, citing the Division of Revenue Act and various grants from the national government. For the current fiscal year, his department has earmarked R12 billion for regional bulk water infrastructure and water services infrastructure grants. Additionally, municipalities have received R6.6 billion from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and R2.6 billion from the Department of Human Settlements.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Democratic Alliance MP Nicholas Myburgh, Mchunu disclosed that municipalities have been allocated a substantial R40 billion through the equitable share for water and sanitation in the current financial year.

To address the issue of wastewater treatment plant neglect, Mchunu underscored the importance of ongoing maintenance funded by revenues generated through the sale of water and services. He emphasized the need for water sector institutions to be financially self-sustaining through the implementation of user charges and robust revenue collection systems.

Mchunu acknowledged the historical warnings from the late former Minister of Water Affairs Edna Molewa, who had cautioned against the misuse of water infrastructure grants by municipalities. Molewa had estimated a requirement of R300 billion to rectify the water infrastructure crisis in the country.

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