Sewage pollution: a violation of basic human rights

Sewage pollution: a violation of basic human rights

South Africa’s water resources, sanitation services and infrastructure are in a dire state.

South Africa’s water resources, sanitation services and infrastructure are in a dire state. Billions of litres of industrial pollution, pharmaceutical wastewater, mine waste and untreated sewage are being released into our rivers and oceans every day.

This needs to stop.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is excited to announce the launch of its Water Community Action Network initiative, known as WaterCAN, on 22 March 2022 which is World Water Day, at a public webinar discussion from 12:00 to 1:30pm.

The WaterCAN project will use an activist citizen science approach that will drive water quality testing by individuals, water forums and community organisations to demand transparency on water quality to hold polluters accountable. WaterCAN will address the lack of accurate and meaningful information, poor monitoring and mismanagement of our water in South Africa.  This role is normally a function of the state but has been significantly neglected.

The first WaterCAN webinar focuses on the topic of “Sewage Pollution: a violation of human rights”.  The panel includes experts on water, communities facing pollution and activists using citizen science as a solution to water challenges.

“We are honoured to have renowned water scientist Dr Anthony Turton, Milnerton Lagoon campaigner Caroline Marx, Vaal environmental activist Samson Mokoena and water and environment citizen scientist Ntswaki Ditlhale on our panel.

“Sewage in our water is harmful to the health of people and animals. It poses a serious threat to food security, our ecosystems and basic human rights,” says Dr Ferrial Adam, Manager of the WaterCAN initiative.

Adam says there have been sewage spills across the country in many of our rivers, dams, and oceans, such as the Vaal River, Roodeplaat Dam, Wemmerpan Dam, Milnerton lagoon and Durban’s beachfront. She says some of the most common health impacts include reproductive failure, cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid.

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s own reports suggest that 56% of the country’s sewage treatment plants are in a poor or in critical condition.

“While we face pollution from different sectors, it is safe to say that sewage flows in our rivers are one of the biggest challenges we face right now and should be declared a state of disaster. In a country that is geographically a water-scarce country and where less than 50% of households have access to clean safe drinking water in their homes, we cannot afford to disrespect our water,” Adam adds.

She says pollution of our water resources has been occurring for decades but we are yet to see someone being held to account.

“We believe government officials and industry polluters must face criminal charges for allowing the pollution of our water resources and it must be seen as a human rights issue. Through the WaterCAN initiative we hope to encourage citizen action and build a stronger network to better manage our water resources and hold the polluters accountable,” says Adam.

To register for the webinar click on the link below.

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Speaker Profiles
Dr Anthony Turton
Anthony Turton holds a professorship at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Free State. He also serves on the boards of a number of companies, mostly involved in technology development and implementation in complex industrial systems involving machine learning and artificial intelligence deployed to optimise process efficiency.

Ntswaki Ditlhale
Ntswaki Ditlhale is the co-founder and executive director of Triple-P – Partners for People and Planet. Ditlhale has a background in nature conservation and has built her knowledge and experience in water and citizen science. She is based in KwaZulu-Natal.

Samson Mokoena
Samson Mokoena is the coordinator of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA). He is also a leading member of the South Africa Water Caucus. Mokoena has fought for environmental justice in the Vaal area for most of his life and, through VEJA, he has been key to building an environmental movement.

Caroline Marx
Caroline Marx is the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association (MCRA) environmental head. Marx, along with OUTA and communities who use and live along the Milnerton and Diep River in Cape Town, have been fighting for environmental water justice and campaigning for the authorities to end the relentless pollution of the water bodies which run into the ocean.

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