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Human rights commission takes stand against water shortages in Limpopo

27 Oct 2023

Ten Limpopo municipalities have three months to show detailed plans of how they’re going to provide residents with water, or face court action. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says failure by municipalities to provide basic services can no longer go unchecked. In a report published this month, the council says the issue of poor and/or insufficient access to water remains a significant challenge for many communities in Limpopo Province. The four district municipalities and six local municipalities are not in compliance with the Water Services Act and do not meet compulsory standards of a ‘minimum quantity of potable water of 25 litres per person per day and where no consumer is without a supply of water for more than 7 days in any year.’
The report is the result of investigations spanning nearly two years. “In recent years, we have received several complaints from residents in Limpopo who do not have access to any form of water supply. This remains a worrying challenge even now, which needs to be addressed immediately,” SAHRC Limpopo manager Victor Mavhidula tells Health-e News. A problem across the province While access to water in South Africa has increased, the recent census results show that Limpopo is lagging behind. More than 20% of households in the province have no access to piped water. Health-e News has been reporting on water shortages in various parts of Limpopo as far back as 2013. The water shortages not only affect residents, but extend to health facilities and schools. Some residents resort to buying buckets of water from people who have drilled wells in their homes. Others are forced to use contaminated water from rivers and streams. Public health concern Access to basic water supply is a constitutional right in South Africa. Sanitation and safe drinking water is also important for public health. According to the World Health Organisation, having a safe and sufficient water supply is the cornerstone of proper hygiene. This, in turn, is an important measure to prevent health conditions such as diarrhoeal, acute respiratory infections and other water borne diseases. The SAHRC says that the Limpopo Department of Health’s submission during the investigations ‘was not helpful.’ The department failed to ‘show the correlation between the shortage of water and its concomitant impact and negative effects on the right to health, particularly the shortage of water at health facilities.’ Enough water for everyone Mavhidula says that despite the fact that geographically, Limpopo is categorised as a water scarce province, there are a number of dams that are enough to ensure uninterrupted adequate water supply to all Limpopo communities, which the municipalities are failing to utilise. According to the report, during the 2021/2022 financial year the ten municipalities tasked with the provision of water services spent a combined total of R606 million on repairs and maintenance of water infrastructure, which only represents 1.8% of the value of the total infrastructure assets, while the National Treasury states that it should be 8%. This means that these municipalities are not setting aside enough funds to maintain water infrastructures. Mismanagement of funds The SAHRC found that the contributing factors towards shortages of water among Limpopo residents are mismanagement of water resources and lack of funds. “The commission also found that there is a lack of sufficient skills in some of the municipalities. The commission intends to closely monitor the implementation of its recommendations by the municipalities in Limpopo and to take appropriate steps where necessary,” reads the report. Mavhidula says that they are also concerned about the dragging of Nandoni-Giyani Bulk Water Project, the project which aims to supply over 55 Giyani villages with running water was launched in 2014, but it is yet to be completed. Last month, Health-e News reported about how Giyani residents are struggling without running water services. Ongoing failure to provide water Bertha Chiguvare, an activist who works for Lawyers for Human Rights in Vhembe says that they have been raising concerns of water shortages for years. “Water remains a scarce resource in several villages in Limpopo, more especially in Vhembe, where more than 10 villages under Elim do not have any form of access to water supply at the moment. The boreholes which are meant to supply them with water are not operational, some are broken, while others have not been maintained for years,” says Chiguvare. She says that it is about time that municipalities are forced to do something to ensure that all residents have an adequate water supply in the province. “Water is life and everyone should have access to it, but in this province people continue to struggle without any water supply at their disposal and even health facilities such as Elim Hospital remain without adequate water supply,” she says. Mavhidula says that if the ten municipalities fail to adhere to the recommendations set by SAHRC and timeframes to provide plans on how they are going to address water shortages in the province, the commission will seek a court order to force them to come up with solutions for water woes in the province.-Health-e News. Author Ndivhuwo Mukwevho Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities.

Source: Health E-News

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