Lockdown causes slowdown of water projects
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The Covid-19 pandemic has put a spanner in the works of projects to improve KZN’s water system, with a lockdown loss of R12 million to Umgeni Water.
It means some municipalities will have to wait longer to connect to bulk potable water infrastructure.
Shami Harichunder, spokesman for Umgeni Water, said construction had come to a complete halt for eight weeks because of lockdown restrictions on work by non-essential sectors.
“At Umgeni Water, 46 water and wastewater projects were at various stages when the application of hygiene and movement-related restrictions became imperative to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of the declaration of a national state of disaster on March 18,” he said.
Twenty-five projects were affected in their design and engineering phases, five in the procurement phase, 12 in the construction phase and four in the commissioning phase.
Umgeni Water would pay about R12 million to 11 construction companies that have made successful claims for additional time and/or costs resulting from events that were beyond their control, said Harichunder.
He added in most cases, it was unlikely contractors could make up for lost time.
“The time lost continues to grow because many contractors have found themselves in difficult financial positions post-lockdown,” said Harichunder.
“In some instances, they are unable to pay sub-contractors or suppliers, which further exacerbates the problem of completing the works.
“Where appropriate, cessions are being arranged by Umgeni Water for future payments, but concerns about preceding amounts due remain.”
He said if lost time was not recovered where the Mpophomeni Pump Station was being upgraded to accommodate an ultra-modern wastewater treatment works, it would impact on its completion and commissioning.
“The Mpophomeni project is part of a larger project relating to the construction of wastewater works, due for completion in December 2021 and designed to serve a population of 26 000,” said Harichunder.
He added it was a strategically important project to mitigate or prevent future spills from Mpophomeni Pump Station into Midmar Dam, caused by inundation of the existing system.
Harichunder said wastewater works for developmental projects at Trust Feed, Mpophomeni and Cedara/Khanya Village were required to manage domestic wastewater treatment and disposal through water-borne sanitation systems.
“While the two-month hard lockdown has delayed completion and commissioning of the Trust Feed waste water works, which according to schedule was due on April 30, the impact will not have serious consequences. This is due to the delay in initiating and completing a housing project in Trust Feed which is required to connect approximately 4 000 residential sites to the new system.”
The sludge-site rehabilitation project at Darvill waste water treatment works was expected to have finished in August, he said.
“There is unlikely to be any serious repercussions because the upgrade project has been significantly delayed due to contractor, design and work quality-related issues that came to the fore two years ago.”
With regard to water treatment works, Harichunder said at least seven strategically important projects were scheduled for completion, commissioning or for which preparations for planning and implementation were at an advanced stage when lockdown restrictions were implemented.
“Fortunately, though, the effects of the lockdown work standstill will not translate into inadequate or no water for receiving municipalities. This is because backup and alternate infrastructure and systems are functioning and available to fill gaps if they exist. Although some of the stand-by, backup and alternates are old, they operate efficiently and still produce and deliver potable water cost effectively and of excellent quality.”
The Independent on Saturday