Go Dutch on ADM bill

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

T IS RIDICU­LOUS to sug­gest the ratepay­ers of Joburg, Ekurhu­leni, Tsh­wane and Mo­gale alone should pay up for such dam­age as has been caused by an in­dus­try that has played as piv­otal a part in all of South Africa’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as min­ing. If that is in­deed what the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion is sug­gest­ing, then it should think again.

All cit­i­zens have ben­e­fited di­rectly or in­di­rectly from the many bil­lions min­ing has con­trib­uted to the trea­sury and no less by way of jobs and in­come from at­ten­dant in­dus­tries and in­fra­struc­ture. Its worst dam­age in the form of acid mine drainage (AMD) may well be to the Vaal River sys­tem, but that does not jus­tify sin­gling out Gaut­eng’s met­ro­pol­i­tan tax­pay­ers as the milch cows for fix­ing the prob­lem.

Adding the bill to our mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter ac­counts will not only be un­fair but is bound to cause dis­cord. Surely the e-toll fi­asco should be les­son enough not to do so. Warn­ing the three mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that they will run the risk of re­duced wa­ter sup­ply un­less they pay the bill in­deed smacks of black­mail.

It is cal­cu­lated that up­grad­ing, pro­vid­ing and main­tain­ing the treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties will cost R11.2 bil­lion. That is a big ac­count by lo­cal­go­v­ern­ment stan­dards. It cer­tainly makes the R450 mil­lion the gov­ern­ment and the R660m the mines them­selves have so far spent on pu­rifi­ca­tion works look fee­ble by com­par­i­son.

Try­ing to pass the bill is not go­ing to work. The proper way is for South Africans, the var­i­ous lay­ers of gov­ern­ment and the mines and in­dus­try in­cluded, to go Dutch on this one.

There is a se­ri­ous point to be taken from all this in the on­go­ing contest be­tween de­vel­op­ment and con­ser­va­tion. It is of­ten left to in­di­vid­u­als and en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions to fight against min­ing near wa­ter re­sources and in sen­si­tive ar­eas.

The ex­tent to which the toxic wa­ter flow­ing from the old mines is killing river sys­tems, and the mas­sive amounts needed to fix it, bear out the true costs that need to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when weigh­ing up de­vel­op­ment against en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions.


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