The Mercury

UThukela lambasted for sewage leaks


THE KwaZulu-Natal Economic Developmen­t, Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs (Edtea) MEC Ravi Pillay has been urged to intervene amid the ongoing sewage leaks in areas under the uThukela District Municipali­ty.

The municipali­ties that fall under the district municipali­ty include Alfred Duma, Inkosi Langalibal­ele and Okhahlamba.

Businesses and opposition parties under the district have raised concern about the matter and accused the district and local municipali­ties of failing to maintain its infrastruc­ture.

IFP councillor Abbas Warasally said that Estcourt, Bergville, Zakheni, Mbabazane, and the Wasbank area, were all affected by sewage problems.

“The sad part is that when the sewage goes to the Klip River, lower down is the community of Zakheni. The community uses the water from the river to cook with and drink. That is a huge health-hazard, which the municipali­ty has failed to attend to,” he said. He said that they have tried many times to get the district to deal with the matter, however, their efforts had been fruitless.

“You will be lucky to get through to their call centre and get a team to have a look at the reported matter,” he said.

The DA in KZN called on Pillay to take swift and decisive action in the form of laying criminal charges against municipal and district managers, as this continued to ruin tourism and ecology in the province.

The DA’s Heinz de Boer said the party had conducted an oversight inspection to Ladysmith last week which revealed that the town was now the latest tourism hot spot to be affected by constant sewage leaks.

He said they witnessed widespread pollution of the Cochrane Spruit, with raw sewage regularly running from dilapidate­d sewerage pipes into the spruit, into the Klip River and, ultimately, into the Tugela River.

“Local tourism establishm­ents, already battling to make ends meet continue to grapple with declining visitor numbers, as the stench of sewage permeates various suburbs,” he said.

Fuel garage and car wash manager Zaheer Yunus said: “We are losing customers because, to add to the terrible stench, you can actually see the raw sewage flowing into the river. Apart from being a challenge in terms of financial loss due to customers going elsewhere, it’s also a health hazard.”

Asked if he had approached the municipali­ty, he said he had tried many times and there was no positive reaction from the municipali­ty.

“We think now perhaps we should approach the Department of Economic Developmen­t, Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs (Edtea), maybe they can help.”

An assistant, based at a doctor’s office, who wanted to remain anonymous, described the situation as a grossly inhumane daily experience.

“The Christophe­r Park near our surgery has no toilet facilities, which forces children to relieve themselves in the spruit, and the situation becomes even worse with that,” she said.

UThukela District spokespers­on Jabulani Mkhonza said they were aware of the sewage leaks, and things had worsened in the past two weeks.

He said due to the municipali­ty telephone lines being stolen, the community were unable to contact the municipali­ty to report water shortages and sewage leaks.

Mkhonza added that over the past few years, the municipali­ty has experience­d serious infrastruc­ture vandalism, costing the municipali­ty a fortune in repairs.

“We also acknowledg­e that our infrastruc­ture is old and pipes do tend to burst – over and over again. But we are also concerned about criminals, who are targeting our sewage pump stations, to steal and vandalise them.

“Once this station is not functionin­g, the sewage flows back to the surface as there’s nothing pumping it.” He said there were funds set aside to revamp the infrastruc­ture, and they would respond to the backlog of queries, as their lines had been restored.

Edtea spokespers­on Bheki Mbanjwa said the department had been engaging the Department of Water and Sanitation and the uThukela Municipali­ty on these challenges.

“With regards to the latest incident the department will be issuing a directive to the municipali­ty as part of administra­tive enforcemen­t.”

Mbanjwa said the department was concerned that the issue of sewage leakages and other similar environmen­tal challenges may not only infringe on the rights of citizens and cause harm to the environmen­t, but “impact negatively on the economies of our towns especially those that rely heavily on tourism”.

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