Foundation laid for the creation of a KwaZulu-Natal Water Forum

Foundation laid for the creation of a KwaZulu-Natal Water Forum

Civil organisations and senior officials from water authorities say yes for civil society led water forum.

WaterCAN, an initiative of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), together with the Durban-based and world-renowned South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), have – along with various other provincially-based community organisations –laid the groundwork for the creation of a civil society led KwaZulu-Natal Water Forum.

The forum concept, already active in Johannesburg, aims to create a space where civil society and the various government entities involved in the delivery of water and related services, can meet on a regular basis to engage on the country’s ongoing water crisis.

According to WaterCAN’s KwaZulu-Natal manager, Jonathan Erasmus, the KZN forum wants to play a “critical oversight and strategic role” in helping KwaZulu-Natal water service authorities shape its water resource future.

“It is a bold move, but we believe we simply cannot be on the sidelines anymore. Unlike many other services provided by the state, water provision and urban sanitation services require a social compact and therefore elevated levels of trust. The latter is missing, and we need to actively work to regain our trust in government,” said Erasmus.

Erasmus said the forum must be a consultative space where water service authorities, government and civil society can meet, discuss, and share vital information concerning the province’s critical water infrastructure and resources.

The decision to set up the forum was taken on 8 May at a public meeting, held at the Diakonia Conference Centre in Durban. It was called by WaterCAN and SDCEA.

Over 100 community members – representing a variety of organisations from ratepayer associations to shack dweller movements – attended the meeting. Senior delegates from both the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the uThukela-Umgeni Water Board were delegated to attend as well, and it was agreed that such a forum was needed.

SDCEA founder Desmond D’Sa said the decision to create a forum comes after more than a year of public consultative meetings with communities from the north to the south of the province over water related issues.

“We have been working towards creating a stakeholder engagement forum for over 12 months. There is a time to fight and a time to work together, and we believe the envisioned forum provides us with an opportunity to work together,” said D’Sa.

He said – providing it is representative of the community at large – the forum has the potential to be successful.

“At SDCEA we have fought against all types of injustices and perpetrators of such, from big business to government. But we recognise that in every activism approach, there must be room for consultation to help find solutions for any problems being faced. That is why we are part of this process,” said D’Sa.

He expressed the hope that such forums will lead to a more coordinated response and better communication channels on water related issues, and to rebuilding trust between authorities and affected communities.

WaterCAN, along with various other Gauteng-based civil society partners, launched a similar forum in Johannesburg which also includes Rand Water, Johannesburg Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation.


For more information: 
A soundclip with comment by Jonathan Erasmus, the KZN WaterCAN Manager, is here.

About WaterCAN:
WaterCAN is a dedicated environmental organisation committed to preserving and protecting South Africa’s water resources. With a mission to promote responsible water management and raise awareness about water quality, the organisation empowers communities to become proactive stewards of their local water sources. If you would like to support our work, kindly Donate Here.