No end in sight to thirsty Ugu Municipality's water woes
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Durban - THE Ugu District Municipality has entered its second month without water with no clear indication when the water woes will end.
The DA has called for the municipality to be placed under administration.
Over the years, the district has been plagued by a number of water issues, including the 2015/16 drought and infrastructure being vandalised by striking workers.
DA Ugu constituency head Rishigen Viranna said the water shortage in the district had escalated because of the collapse of the Mthavuna Water Plant, which supplied about 190 000 people in urban and rural areas of the Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality.
According to Viranna, information from the district was that the plant collapsed as a result of a combination of ageing infrastructure and damage caused by the recent storm.
“The flood saw the pump at the plant submerged, and it was destroyed.The only pump currently working is a small secondary one. Under normal conditions the plant produces 25 to 30 megalitres of water a day; however, now we live on scheduled water cuts, with some areas only having water two to three times a week,” he said.
Viranna said they had been told that the district was in the process of importing parts for the pump that were not available locally, and which were expected to arrive at the end of this month.
Viranna said neither the mayor nor his deputy had gone out to the people since the start of the water crisis.
“Instead the mayor has been promoted by the ANC to MPL despite destroying the municipality financially during his term,” he said.
On Thursday, Ugu mayor Mondli Chiliza resigned after being promoted by the ANC to MPL in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.
Viranna said they had asked for the municipality to be placed under administration for years because of the water situation's long-term effects.
“Ugu is a district dependent on agriculture and tourism. Tourism towns like Port Edward have turned into ghost towns. People have lost their jobs and households have lost incomes,” he said.
Viranna said they were calling for areas in the district and local municipality to be declared disaster areas as Ugu was not coping with the demand for water tankers.
Ugu municipal spokesperson France Zama confirmed that the Mthavuna plant was operating below its full capacity after recent storm damage to the pumps.
“We are currently operating the plant with a single spare pump while the damaged pumps are being sent for repairs. Due to the complex nature of the pumps, it has become extremely difficult to source repair parts in the local market,” he said.
Zama said the municipality had begun implementing a water rationing schedule for Port Edward and surrounding areas while water tankers were available for relief supply.
“We do acknowledge the amount of frustration this has caused to the affected residents, but we are calling for their patience during this period.”
Olliver Ransome, chairperson of the KZN South Coast Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said the lower parts of the South Coast were suffering.
“The municipality is under dire financial strain. Its billing system is hopeless. The municipal manager
(DD Naidoo) said Ugu will need about R500 million to fix its ageing infrastructure. The government has emphasised job creation as a priority; Ugu is not creating a conducive environment for that,” he said.
Vijay Naidoo, president of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said businesses were running with great difficulty, with the most impact being felt by small and medium-sized businesses.
“These include hairdressers and car washes. If you have 50 people hired in your business, even if you don’t use water for production, employees have to be sent home because there is no water. We can’t expect people to go on like that,” he said.
Naidoo believed that Ugu could not find the balance between upgrading and maintaining infrastructure.
Co-operative Governance spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the department had asked Ugu to address the water issue urgently.
“We would like to emphasise that the damage caused by the natural disaster was massive in KZN. It damaged a lot of infrastructure and this pipe (Mthavuna plant) is a specialised one and Ugu has been making efforts to get it repaired,” he said.
“In the meantime we apologise to residents and ask that they understand that the damage was caused by a natural disaster that caused R1.1 billion worth of damage in KZN. Ugu will intensify their interim solution of getting water to the people.”