Monday, 17 January 2011
Friday, 07 January 2011
Sunday, 17 October 2010
Sunday, 17 January 2010
...we need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God's blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream.
There are four obstacles. First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible, but it's still there.
If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.
Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path, We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn't work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: "Oh, well, I didn't really want it anyway." We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.
I ask myself: are defeats necessary?
Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.
So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
Because, once we have overcome the defeats - and we always do - we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: "Each man kills the thing he loves." And it's true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all of those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget all about the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had given up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal - when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.
Friday, 21 August 2009
When apartheid crumbled in 1994, an estimated 14 million South Africans lacked access to a formal water supply, and about half the country - 21 million people - had no formal sanitation, according to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF).
Since then, access to water has increased dramatically, but backlogs persist: in 2008, about 5 million people were still in need of adequate supplies, while three times more - 15 million people - lacked basic sanitation.
The quality of municipal drinking water is monitored monthly, with nearly all municipalities reporting an acceptable standard of water. However, outdated infrastructure and problems in retaining skilled staff have contributed to what DWAF admits are unacceptably high levels of pollution in some rivers and dams.
South Africa's tap water is among the best in the world, according to DWAF spokesperson Linda Page. But with millions still lacking access to flush toilets and piped water, the threat of waterborne diseases cannot be ignored, she said.
In 2008, half of the municipal water supplies surveyed in Western Cape Province, on the country's south coast, had high levels of the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria, according to a study released by the provincial DWAF.
In impoverished districts like Ukhahlamba, in neighbouring Eastern Cape Province, the problem is even more extreme. In 2008, Ukhahlamba reported levels of E. coli and other bacteria that were so high in some parts of its water supply it had been forced to issue "boil alerts" and supply water to severely affected communities by tanker trucks, according to presentations made to parliament in June.
Though E. coli can sometimes be traced back to certain industries, it is often taken as an indication that water supplies were recently contaminated with human or animal waste. That problem is being exacerbated by the first heavy rains of the 2009 season, which can wash contaminants into water systems.
Municipalities across the country have blamed poor water quality on a lack of resources and capacity that has put far too much strain on ageing water treatment plants. In 2004 South Africa had just 15,000 civil engineers, with the bulk in the private sector and only 11 percent working for local government.
A river runs through it
With its source high in the Drakensberg Mountains, the Vaal River stretches more than 1,000km to become the main tributary to South Africa's longest waterway, the Orange River. It feeds large portions of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan area, the country's economic heartland, as well as most of the northern Free State Province.
It has also, in some areas, registered high enough levels of faecal matter to warrant Rand Water, South Africa's largest bulk water utility, to warn that contact with the river may put people at risk of serious infection.
One of the major problems is that our system is very old - our pump station is giving us problems, almost everything is giving us problems
Every year thousands of tourists flock to the towns that dot the banks of the Vaal. In sleepy Parys, visitors make up a vital part of the local economy, but in December, when the extent of the pollution became known, the town lost about US$180,000 a week in cancellations. According to businessman Carl Cilliers, who runs a resort on the river's edge, a repeat performance could put him and his family out of business.
Local wildlife is also struggling to cope with the environmental impact. Recently, court-ordered contractors removed 20 tonnes of dead fish after a local NGO, Save the Vaal River Environment (SAVE), took the local Emfuleni municipality to court for leaking millions of litres of raw sewage into the river. SAVE said the pollution had contributed to stomach and intestinal disorders among nearby residents.
In its defence, Emfuleni municipality - well aware of its failing pumps and ageing infrastructure – argues that it lacks the finances and capacity to correct the situation.
"One of the major problems is that our system is very old - our pump station is giving us problems, almost everything is giving us problems," said Mojalefa Radebe, media relations officer at the municipality's Water Service Unit. In 2007, the municipality ran an operational deficit of about US$4 million, with an outstanding US$2 million debt to Rand Water.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
This could soon be in one of our newspapers....The water crisis reaches everyone of us.Not just the poor, black, white or elderly!!
"The first thing people ask you is for water, because both the people and their animals [are] seriously weak and cannot reach water wells in the remote areas," Said Ahmed Du’alle Bullale, MP for Saraar region, told IRIN on 2 August.
The parliamentarian, who recently visited Saraar, Sool and Sanag regions, said many water wells had dried up. Those that still had water served very large populations.
"About 100,000 [people] from Togdheer, Sool and Sanaag regions were displaced by the recent drought and no one is supporting [them]," he added.
The worst-affected areas included the main Saraar plains between Sanaag and Togdheer and Ba’ade, between Sool and Sanaag.
"Most people have moved to places where some Gu’ [long] rains were received, such as the mountains of Sanaag near Erigavo and the southeast district of Togdheer," the MP said.
The mayor of Ainabo town, Khalif Ismail Saleban, said about 35,000 pastoralist families had moved from other regions in search of pasture for their livestock to areas between Qori-lugud and Buhootle, where some long rains had fallen.
This had increased the number of displaced people in the town, which is the capital of Saraar region. "We have more than 400 families who lost their animals in the drought," he told IRIN.
A local chief in Ainabo, Ibrahim Isse Hassan, said the drought had also cut the market value of livestock. The highest price for sheep, for example, was down to US$38 from $42 a few weeks ago, yet the price of rice was still $36.
On 22 June, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) warned that the drought in Somalia's central region had extended north into the key pastoral areas of the Sool plateau, Nugal valley, and Hawd livelihood zones.
The situation threatened more than 700,000 pastoralists and a significant number of urban households, whose income and food sources are strongly linked to livestock marketing and trade.
"Emergency assistance is required in order to prevent severe deterioration in food security," FEWS Net said. The situation had resulted from cumulative effects of four consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall, it noted, adding that pasture and grazing conditions had deteriorated to an alarming degree.
Sunday, 09 August 2009
Louise at Speed Queen Racing helped us to organise our motorbike riding training. Learning from the best women rider in South Africa Wilmarie Janse van Rensburg and her team is an honor. Thanks for all the good advice and lessons guys.I know we are definitely going to be thankful for the info later on when we are on the road.
Do It Now adventures organised some of our preparation courses. One being the Audi High Perfromance Driving at Gerotek South Africa. We had a lovely day!
Sunday, 02 August 2009
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justicaen d freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to-
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on
the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the qualitiy of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightfill place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seen Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.
Sunday, 12 July 2009
There are currently a number of threats to the water resources of South Africa, of which three generic types exist:
1) Radiological threats arising from radionuclide contamination. In layman terms, this means radioactivity, mostly associated with the geology of gold, which in the South African case, is also related to uranium as well.
2) Biological threats arising mostly from dysfunctional sewage treatment works. In layman terms, this refers to bacteria, fungi and viruses that enter the rivers as a result of waste treatment works that are overloaded, or generally dysfunctional. Of these the most urgent is that of cyanobacteria, which are a primitive form of blue green algae that is also one of the oldest life forms on Earth. These produce a toxic chemical known as microcystine.
3) Chemical threats arising from a range of chemicals used in industry, in agriculture or in society at large. The most immediate of these is a family of chemicals known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC's). Closely associated with this is the female hormone oestrogen, which enters the river systems from being party metabolized and then introduced through sewage systems. A distinct sub-set of EDC's relates to birth defects, sometimes of the urogenital system where both male and female organs occur simultaneously, or impaired human fertility.
 Priorities of Threat
The immediate issue is that of the gold mining industry. South Africa is a mature gold mining economy, with many of the mines either approaching a point of closure, or having already closed. The problem arising from this relates to the fact that the old mine voids flood with water after pumping ceases. This water then rises inside the void and through a complex chemical and biological process, pyrite found in the rock is converted into sulphates. These sulphates then combine with the water to form acid and this acid starts to attack the rock, leaching out the mineral content in a chemical reaction that becomes self-propelling, known as mine drainage(AMD), which reports to the surface via springs and then floods into rivers cascading the problem downstream.
While the current threat that is getting the most headline attention in the national media is gold-driven AMD, there is also an emerging threat from coal-based AMD, which is starting to enter the public domain as an area of concern. In this regard the chemistry is similar in that sulphates are produced, but given the different geology associated with coal, there is no radioactivity component. The down side is that the geographic area is very much larger than gold-driven AMD, so in many ways this is a more serious threat over time. Different treatment techniques are being considered for coal-based AMD.
Some authors describe this process as being one of the largest current threats to our national ecosystems, second only to that of global climate change.
The gold mines of the Witwatersrand area are located in a geological structure that can be thought of as a three-layered cake. The top layer consists of rock and soil in which vegetation grows. The second layer consists of a porous rocky layer known as dolomite, which can be thought of as a sponge that has holes in it that in turn fill up with water. The lower layer consists of deep strata of rock, some of which contain gold-bearing reef known as conglomerate. When this is mined out it can be thought of as Swiss cheese with large holes in it. These mine workings are all interconnected deep underground for safety reasons. This three layered cake is then divided into four vertical sections by dolerite dykes, resulting from earlier volcanic activity, that serve to effectively separate the four sections into vertical slices. These are called basins because they contain massive volumes of water, mostly found in the upper spongy layer of dolomites, but all connected via vertical shafts between the surface and the deep underground workings.
Insert image to show this...
These four basins have gold mines of different ages in them, each with a slightly different geochemistry. The basins are as follows:
1) The Far Western Basin is centred on Carletonville and Randfontein, with surface drainage via the Wonderfontein Spruit, which flows into the Mooi River and then on to the Vaal River system downstream of Potchefstroom.
2) The Western Basin is centred on Krugersdorp. All mining has stopped in this basin and the mine void has filled up with water, which started to flow out at the surface in August 2002 in a process known as decant. This water flows into the Tweeloop Spruit, via the Cradle of Humankind and then into the Limpopo River System upstream of the Hartebeestpoort Dam.
3) The Central Basin is located under Johannesburg with surface water drainage taking place via the Klip River, through Soweto and then into the Vaal River system. Mining has stopped and the void is filling at a rate that will reach surface by January 2012 at South East Vertical Shaft in Boksburg. Water will start flowing from various springs associated with the dolomites by October 2011.
4) The Eastern Basin is centred on the Springs area with surface water drainage taking place via the Blesbokspruit, which flows into the Vaal River system. This basin is still being mined in places and the water levels are being maintained well below surface. The mine water is neutralized to a reasonable pH and it is currently being discharged into the Blesbokspruit, which sustains a large RAMSAR wetland. 
 The Proposed Solution
The current situation is that the thinking about managing AMD is based on one idea, which is to create a central treatment plant where the water will be cleaned up and then sold on to a bulk water provider at a profit. This is where the problem arises. A company has been created to raise the capital needed to pay for the engineering (around 1.5 Billion Rand). That company is currently engaged in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is about to be completed. The outcome of this process will be a final decision that will affect the consumers of water along the entire Witwatersrand area (11 million people), in which they would be expected to buy this as drinking water after 2012. The treated mine effluent will be diluted out with the current water supply coming from the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme and the Thukela Water Project.
Herein lies the dilemma. It is known that the AMD has a range of heavy metals (including uranium and arsenic) dissolved in it, as well as radionuclides (radioactivity associated with the decay of uranium into a range of daughter products)
This poses the question, is the treatment process that is being considered for the conversion of AMD into drinking water, 100% guaranteed to remove all of the radioactivity and all of the heavy metals and therefore safe for human consumption?
The simple truth is that a high confidence toxicology test has never been done, so we simply do not know.
Now, with the EIA process in its final legal stages, does the public along the Witwatersrand know what is about to happen to their drinking water? Legally the process has been followed to the letter of the law. But has each potential impacted person been made aware of the issues that will affect them in a very intimate way in the near future? Once the final decision has been made and the engineering started, there will be no chance to make any changes.
If the public remains silent while the EIA process is underway, the conclusion will be that a legal EIA was launched and nobody lodged any significant complaints. That will result in a fait accompli and the planned treatment plant will simply go ahead.
The challenge then is to inform the public about this process and give them the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. The Witwatersrand public is therefore encouraged to join the South Africa Water Action (SAWA) group on Twitter and Facebook, in order to be kept abreast of developments. In this process links will be provided to the consulting company conducting the EIA and where appropriate to other key actors.
Remember, this is not a sensationalized issue driven by raw emotion. It is a complex technical subject that is being debated behind closed doors at the highest levels of scientific institutions and political power. The emerging result of these mostly elite-driven talks will impact on 11 million people. In the spirit of democracy, those 11 million citizens have a right to know about the essence of these decisions that will become part of their daily lives in the very near future.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea.
84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 - 14.
98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world.
884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
At any given time, half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
Less than 1% of the world's fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
World Water Coverage. View larger map.
About a third of people without access to an improved water source live on less than $1 a day. More than two thirds of people without an improved water source live on less than $2 a day.
Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.
The daily requirement for sanitation, bathing, and cooking needs, as well as for assuring survival, is about 13.2 gallons per person.
Over 50 percent of all water projects fail and less than five percent of projects are visited, and far less than one percent have any longer-term monitoring.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Monday, 25 May 2009
Saturday, 02 May 2009
Producer: Joy Summers
Presenter: Bongani Bingwa
Researcher: Quereshini Naidoo
Genre: Environment and Conservation
Dead babies in the Eastern Cape. Dead crocodiles in the Oliphants River. Dead fish in the Vaal. 7 000 Cholera cases, crumbling infrastructure and large scale sewage spills. Last year South Africans, shell-shocked by the electricity crisis, wondered what would be next.
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): “The lights had barely been switched back on when a Sunday newspaper said the next crisis would be with water. The minister said that a water crisis was looming, but others weren’t so sure. And as the year drew to a close it led to the firing of a CSIR political scientist who said he’d simply been telling it like it was.”
Dr Anthony Turton went from hero to zero. Putting his professional reputation on the line, his presentation - which he never got to deliver - raises uncomfortable questions about water supply and the effects of acid mine drainage on human health.
Bongani: “As you see it, what is the problem with our water?”
Dr Anthony Turton (Water policy specialist): “The problem that we have with our water is simply that we have reached the limit of our readily available supply. If you take this cup of coffee as an example. If that cup of coffee represents our total natural water resource, we have now allocated 98% of that. We have probably over allocated that, but the best data we have is 98% allocated. Our role now is to start saying: are we going to stop growing our economy because we have no more water to sustain activities, or are we going to start cascading that water around?”
Anthony Turton may have been the one to hit the headlines, but he was not the first to raise the flag. The alarm emanating from specialists in the water sector concurred - water-stressed South Africa simply doesn’t have enough water for us to treat it the way we are. Rivers are dying and some dams are under siege from a scourge called blue-green algae.
Nowhere was that more obvious than here [on screen], just downstream of Gauteng. This scum covers the Magalies River - just above the point where it flows into the Hartebeespoort Dam. It’s called blue green algae and it’s caused by too many phosphates and nitrates in the water, which creates the perfect environment for it to flourish. This enrichment of the water is called ‘eutrophication’.
Bongani: “Blue green algae is a symptom of eutrophication and is considered one of South Africa’s most critical water challenges. The case of Hartebeespoort Dam is one of the worst in the world.
This water is toxic and is mostly caused by sewage effluent flowing into our rivers.”
Around 12 to 16 sewage works empty their effluent into the water that flows into the dam.
This is what can happen to rivers when there is just too much sewage effluent running into them or it is not treated according to the strictest standards. It’s a worldwide water challenge, but already 35% of all our water in our storage dams is eutrophic or hypertrophic.
Carin van Ginkel is a Department of Water Affairs specialist scientist.
Bongani: “Why is eutrophication considered one of our most important water challenges?”
Carin Van Ginkel (Dept of Water Affairs specialist scientist): “Because there are very little management actions that are really effective.”
Bongani: “This is easily the most revolting sight I have ever seen… it’s bubbling. The putrid smell - you don’t want to fall in here, you will get sick.”
Not all blue green blooms are toxic, but a significant number are. These poisons, according to one expert, make strychnine look like vitamin syrup. They attack the liver and have killed wild animals in the Kruger Park and domestic stock.
Carin: “There’s a lot of incidences. There’s a whole dairy herd that died in the Eastern Cape.”
Bongani: “This has been linked to colon cancer?”
Carin: “Ja, the whole of the intestines can be affected. You can get skin irritations, you can get flu’ like symptoms, the liver is impacted mostly.”
The water here is of such poor quality that when Rustenburg needed more water for drinking, it was decided to pipe good quality water from Rand Water miles away in Vereeniging, rather than dip into this pea-green soup just around the corner.
Carin: “We definitely don’t have it under control - I mean this is showing it.”
Keeping these toxins out of the drinking water is expensive and difficult. That’s the job of Leanne Coetzee. 6% of Pretoria uses the Rietvlei Dam for drinking water and the algae there gave her a huge headache. Killing it with chlorine was not an option because, as it dies, it releases its toxins into the water, so the best way to remove it is at the source.
Leanne Coetzee (Deputy Director: Scientific Services): “The algae causes very inconsistent water - and the water treatment plant, it causes incredible leaps and bounds in the consistency of water quality. Now it’s great - in an hour it’s terrible.”
Leanne is experimenting with these Solar Bee panels which create a current that stops the blue green algae from growing. Photographs from a year ago suggest it may be working, but some scientists are sceptical, as it still doesn’t remove the source of the problem- phosphates and nitrates. She is giving it two years to see what happens.
Leanne: “All scientists are cautious. I’m not going to say this works until I’ve had a lot more data that I can analyse and test.”
Bongani: “In October last year the South African Institute of Civil Engineering submitted a report to the parliamentary portfolio committee on water and it’s pretty damning- using phrases like, ‘grave concern,’ ’someone has lost sight of the ball,’ ‘the status of our infrastructure is a crisis of the highest order.’ To add to that, the former director general Professor Mike Muller has written an article saying it’s time to panic.
Prof Mike Muller (Public & Development Manager: WITS): “If you look at the electricity crisis Bongani, the reason we had a month of blackouts was because, five years before, some decisions were taken that were wrong and some decisions weren’t taken. And what I am saying is that in the water sector we have similar lead times. If you’re not always looking ahead for the next four or five years, the chances are that, by the time you need to do something, it’s too late and then you will be in crisis.
So I am saying panic at the right time, and the right time is probably now.”
So is it time to panic? The only person to answer that question was minister Lindiwe Hendricks.
Bongani: “You say there is no crisis? We’ve spoken to scientists, engineers who’ve used words like, ‘panic,’ ‘crisis’?”
Lindiwe Hendricks (Dept Water Affairs & Forestry): “Well it’s their words. Because I say, if you look at what’s in the media and you look at what is being said about water, they say there is a water crisis; the country is going to run out of water. I’m saying it is incorrect. There is no impending crisis, as far as the security of supply is concerned.”
But it wasn’t just the media. Concerns were raised by water scientists and engineers - including those in her own department.
Bongani: “Some DWAF reports suggest that Gauteng may run out of water by 2013?”
Lindiwe: “Yes, that’s because we know we don’t have enough. We know that because we are planning. In November cabinet took a decision; approved a huge infrastructure project which is going to augment the system… Which is why I am saying we are not going to run out of water. We have planned, we have projected. So we are embarking on phase two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which will ensure that there is sufficient water in Gauteng.”
Bongani: “Since we began filming this story there have been countless reports of problems with our water. In Vryheid, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal, their water has been described as brown, and is full of worms. In Witbank the same thing - brown water. In Umtata, sewerage was flowing down the main street. In Sedgefield, near Knysna, they have run out of water. The fact is that the management of our most important resource has been devolved down to the municipalities and in many cases they are simply not up to the job.”
The Matjhabeng municipality runs Welkom and Odendalsrus. On the outskirts of Welkom, the Sand River borders Johan Terblanche’s farm on the outskirts of Welkom. As chairperson of the NGO Eco Care, he was constantly receiving complaints from farmers about sewage being dumped in the river.
Johan Terblanche (Farmer, Chairman Northern Free State Ecocare): “For me, if my cattle drink this water they will become infected with measles. And for the other farmers downstream, if they use this water to irrigate their cabbages or lettuce, the Ascaris worms lay their eggs on the lettuce or cabbage and the farmer takes it back to the market and then the whole cycle begins again - which is unnecessary.”
It got so bad that Johan has used the country’s water legislation to lay two criminal charges against the previous municipal managers for polluting the surface water. One of the cases is in Odendalsrus and doesn’t affect him at all, but he believes it’s his duty as a concerned citizen.
Johan: “Because I am the chairperson, people phone me and say this is happening, so I said, ‘You must just go and lay a charge’. But they are too scared to lay a charge. If no one else will do it, then I must do it.”
Bongani: “The Odendalsrus sewage works haven’t been working for at least the last three years. To top it all off, this plant is based at a farm which was once called Paradise and, as you can see, it’s anything but.”
The story of this disaster appears to be far more than mere incompetence. All this plant needed at the time was an upgrade. Instead, the contractor came in and ripped the whole thing up. When it became evident after a year that he couldn’t complete the job properly he was asked to leave. It’s still unclear how much he was paid, but it’s run into the millions, and is now part of the court case that is being investigated.
Bongani: “If you win your cases, what happens?”
Johan: “It will be the best present in my life and we can all have clean water.”
According to a written response from the Matjhabeng Municipality it will now cost R18-million rand to fix the sewage plant. In the meantime, sewage is simply re-diverted into the wetlands and pans that stretch for about 11km and end up in Eduard Steyn’s farm across the road where he kept finding toilet paper in the cattle’s drinking water.
Eduard Steyn (Farmer): “Bongani, let me show you where the pollution… where the sewerage has polluted the ground, how pitch black the ground is and if you smell it, it smells like raw sewerage.”
Bongani: “Ugh, I know what you are thinking- they must pay these presenters a lot to do that.”
Sadly the dysfunction we saw in Odendalsrus is not isolated, according to the Institute of Civil Engineers “The collapse of water supply and sanitation infrastructure is well into crisis mode in rural areas”, says the Institution of civil engineers’ submission. Mike Muller says government is well aware of the situation.
Mike Muller (Visiting Professor: Public & Development Management, WITS): “My understanding is that they know very well that a lot of waste water works are not working to specifications, and I think they say it’s closer to 50%. But there’s a widespread understanding that many municipalities are failing. What we are missing is a solution to that problem.”
The solution to Welkom’s sewage works appears to be missing too. The town’s treatment plant is completely dysfunctional and half under water. It started with just one broken pump that wasn’t fixed in time. The pump was used to ensure that treated effluent was pumped out of this pan [on screen] which is above the facility. When the rains came two years ago the water flooded these works directly below. They have never worked since, despite the fact that the minister was here eight months ago and issued a directive to the municipality to sort it out quickly.
Bongani: “Behind me is Welkom’s main sewage works, which is out of commission and so the sewerage is pumping up over here… And what the city council has done is dug this trench, which diverts this into the Witpan, and that goes to the San River and eventually it lands up in the Vaal River. If it is human waste, it’s here. There’s faeces here, used condoms, sanitary pads - if it’s disgusting, you will find it here.”
It’s this raw sewage that ends up in the Sand River floating past Johan Terblanche’s farm. A few kilometres downstream the water is taken out for irrigation of food and drinking water for other Free State towns.
Bogani: “Fact is, you issued a directive, it has now been eight months, nothing has happened
Lindiwe: “We issued a directive and in 30 days they gave us a plan as to how they are going to correct. The issue of capacity again was a big problem, and the issue of finance was a big problem.”
Bongani: “But would you not say, minister, if nothing has happened, it makes the department and you look ineffective.”
Lindiwe: “Definitely, we have to strengthen our monitoring and evaluation system. And you know that we have established a unit, the Blue Scorpions and they are on the ground. And they bring back the information and we react to it.”
Mike: “The Constitution says this is the job of local government. The constitution also says that local government is an autonomous sphere of government, so DWAF can’t just go in and tell them what to do. In electricity, for example, cabinet long ago took the decision that municipalities weren’t competent to run electricity. So why are we saying that electricity is too complicated - take it away from them, but the more complicated business of water supply and sanitation is left with these weak and incompetent municipalities?”
Bongani: “People ask: is our drinking water safe? Well that depends who is supplying it. If it’s coming from Rand Water out of a world class facility like this, it’s about as good as it can get. But it’s in the rural areas where facilities like this just don’t exist… there, well, you take your chances.”
In Witbank few people trust the water coming out of the taps. They trust the municipality even less.
The day we arrived there was sewage flowing into the streets and unhappy municipal workers were sabotaging services because they weren’t getting paid overtime.
Koos Gass is losing business as the brown water stains his clients’ towels.
Bongani: “All from the water?”
Koos Gass (Business owner): “All from the water.”
We paid an impromptu visit to the water works.
Bongani: “Looks like there is no one here… ”
The place was deserted. We have since received information from a retired engineer who said he offered to assist the municipality, but they didn’t want his help and so he gave up in frustration. He told us that the brown water was a result of the clarifiers and the filters that were not working properly. Currently there is no qualified engineer and very little if any maintenance done. You can’t really trust a single water sample, but the one we had analysed indicated good compliance for the health parameters but bad compliance for the operational parameters. So it may not look good, but it’s safe to drink. But that is just one sample.”
Bongani: “Is our water safe? ”
Lindiwe: “I can safely say that the process that we’ve put in place to look at the quality of water at municipal level, the samples that we take every month across the country have indicated to us that 94% of our municipality water is clean and safe to drink. One thing we want to showcase during 2010 is the quality of drinking water in South Africa. So the few municipalities that are left behind - that 5% - we are going to eliminate it.”
A recent Water Research Commission study suggests a different figure to the minister. They say about 50% of small treatment plants are not producing the desired quantity or quality of water and 78% of operators don’t have the knowledge to do their jobs.
By contrast, Rand Water supplies some of the best water in the world to 12 million people. From Vereeniging 2800 million litres are pumped daily into reservoirs on the escarpment. They do about a million tests per year, testing for an array of pathogens, pesticides and toxic algae. They are also testing for chemicals that are not visible and that many people have never heard of. They’re called endocrine disruptors and they have found their way into South African water.
Bettina Genthe (Health Risk Assessor: Rietvlie Dam Project): “The Eland story is really how the whole study began at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve.”
Bettina Genthe is a scientist working at the CSIR. She was the human health risk assessor on a study where a research scientist from the University of Pretoria discovered abnormal testicles on an Eland that had been culled.
Bettina: “And she noticed that the testicles of the eland had been totally calcified. And they actually described it like being, ‘a bag of bones that could shake around’ and it was something that they then started saying: ‘What caused this - what pollution is here that’s had such an effect on the eland?’”
Present in the Rietvlei reserve were pesticides, hormones and heavy metals - all endocrine disruptors. The WRC study went on to discover that almost half the mice had low sperm counts, 12% had no sperm at all, the penile sheath length in the snails was shorter and there were female sex cells inside the testes of the barbel.
Bongani: “Now, is this limited to Rietvlei or is it widespread?”
Bettina: “It’s not just limited to Rietvlie, but the study was. What we found was that there was almost no single area where these chemicals didn’t take place.”
The study revealed cancer risks if the water was used for irrigation, but the drinking water risk was low - that was due largely to the sophisticated treatment that the water underwent through the filters at the Rietvlei water purification plant.
Bettina: “I know that at Rietvlei they have activated carbon, and that is one of the most effective ways of removing the endocrine disruptors.”
Irrigation is under the spotlight at Stellenbosch University. Here a five year study is underway to establish exactly which pathogens end up on the fruit and vegetables that you eat. Dr Gunnar Sigge is at the helm.
Bongani: “Should we be worried about our water?”
Dr Gunnar Sigge (Project Manager - WRC Project): “The fact that we are doing the research is because we are worried about the state of our rivers. We’re worried, that’s why we’re doing this research to try and get to the bottom of where it’s coming from, what it is and what the risks are.”
Assisting with the study is Dr Jo Barnes - an unpopular messenger who has spent hours in her waders sampling these rivers. This soft spoken epidemiologist from Stellenbosch is not afraid to deliver hard truths.
Dr Jo Barnes (Faculty of Health Sciences, US): “I don’t always think that when people pronounce drinking water safe that they look at the whole spectrum of things that may be there. So I’m also starting to be concerned that the way we pronounce water clean is not keeping up with what’s really there… the more hardy things…”
Dr Barnes has written many papers on the health risks associated with our filthy rivers.
Dr Barnes: “I have found a full range of pathogens in water like that, many bacteria, skin diseases, respiratory diseases, kidney diseases, ear infections… organisms for all of those and of course the whole family of diarrhoeas. So this is not at all ideal water to irrigate on edible produce.”
And her outspoken comments haven’t won her many friends in the fresh produce industry.
Dr Barnes: “I have been put under severe pressure not to mention too much of the problems regarding fresh produce.”
Bongani: “You’ve been put under pressure not to speak up?”
Dr Barnes: “Yes.”
Bongani: “In what ways?”
Dr Barnes: “In many ways; some subtle some very direct. But anyway I am still here - nevertheless I am still here saying the same things and that is that denial… As the clock ticks, the problem gets bigger.”
And the clock is ticking… if government wants to showcase our water in 2010, we will need to clean up our act or we may just find ourselves warning our visitors to stay out of the rivers and avoid the tap water in our small towns.
Drinking water is the birthright of humankind. However, safe drinking water is denied to the majority of the world's population. This is certainly true in most parts of Africa and Asia.
Even in relatively advanced countries such as India, safe drinking water is not readily available, especially in the rural areas. Here, the concern is not about any water (for other use) but about potable water, which can be consumed safely by human beings. Safe drinking water is a paramount requirement because 75 per cent of diseases in developing countries arise from polluted drinking water. It is high time that we bring about public awareness about safe drinking water. The knowledge of how to make water safe for consumption is not readily available to people in most developing countries.
There are several good and simple scientific methods to purify polluted water to make it safe from drinking. This document describes some of the best ways available for purifying water by inexpensive methods, involving membranes, surface active materials and so on. Based on the local needs situations, appropriate methods can be employed to obtain safe drinking water in the different parts of the developing world. To this end, we hope this document will be useful.
Besides this document, we propose to prepare a simplified version in the form of a poster or a pamphlet. These publications will be advertised through scientific academies and other organizations in various developing countries. Each developing country could produce suitable in local and national languages, and employ various other ways of reaching the common people for using these simple techniques.
If we arouse the interest of all concerned, we may indeed make progress in solving one of the worst problems afflicting mankind.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
3 March 2009
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has reassured South Africans that the country's tap water is safe to drink.
While acknowledging that the water in certain areas might at times not meet the required technical standards in terms of the electronic Water Quality Management & Drinking Water Quality Regulation, the department says this does not mean the water in these towns is not safe for human consumption.
While drinking water quality management is the responsibility of South Africa's municipalities, the department has an oversight and regulatory role on the quality of tap water, and has implemented a countrywide system to assist with the overall management of drinking water quality.
According to the department, an average 3 000 samples are taken nationwide from water supply systems, and the latest results indicate that on average 94% of the analyses complied with the health aspects of the national standard for drinking water quality.
"Our monthly reporting indicates that 98% of all samples taken comply with the health aspects as listed in of SANS 241: 2006," the department said in a statement last week.
The department has already commenced with its incentive-based regulation programme, the Blue Drop Certification Programme, with the objective of awarding excellent drinking water quality management in different towns.
The general public will also be kept well informed on the regulator's confidence levels in drinking water quality management levels per town or city. The first assessments of all nine provinces will be presented in an inaugural public report to be published in May.
'Highest quality' drinking water
The department reiterated its commitment to ensuring that South Africans are served with the highest quality drinking water, saying the country's standards compare well with World Health Organisation limits, which have been adopted as standards for the European Union and other developed countries, including Canada and Australia.
"In spite of the many challenges we have to face, it is encouraging to note that we do have water service systems which record similar compliance levels as our counterparts in developed countries," the department said.
Sunday, 08 March 2009
Drinking water is the birthright of humankind. However, safe drinking water is denied to the majority of the world's population. This is certainly true in most parts of Africa and Asia.
Even in relatively advanced countries such as India, safe drinking water is not readily available, especially in the rural areas. Here, the concern is not about any water (for other use) but about potable water, which can be consumed safely by human beings. Safe drinking water is a paramount requirement because 75 per cent of diseases in developing countries arise from polluted drinking water. It is high time that we bring about public awareness about safe drinking water. The knowledge of how to make water safe for consumption is not readily available to people in most developing countries. There are several good and simple scientific methods to purify polluted water to make it safe from drinking. This document describes some of the best ways available for purifying water by inexpensive methods, involving membranes, surface active materials and so on.
Based on the local needs situations, appropriate methods can be employed to obtain safe drinking water in the different parts of the developing world. To this end, we hope this document will be useful. Besides this document, we propose to prepare a simplified version in the form of a poster or a pamphlet. These publications will be advertised through scientific academies and other organizations in various developing countries. Each developing country could produce suitable in local and national languages, and employ various other ways of reaching the common people for
using these simple techniques. If we arouse the interest of all concerned, we may indeed make progress in solving one of the worst problems afflicting mankind.
CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, 1996
Everyone has the right-
(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and futuregenerations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that-
(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(ii) promote conservation; and
(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of naturalresources while promoting justifiable economic and socialdevelopment.
Ripples For Good....Motivating Change In The Waterways...It Starts with You!!
In part two of their journey, they propose to circumnavigate the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. At the end of this expedition they will have traveled through 86 countries and islands - on foot, on bicycles, on motorbikes, scuba diving and in canoes, even via donkey cart – educating and engaging members of the public, in towns and in remote rural places to support this cause.
They will document their experiences, highlight problem areas and connect communities with the various water organizations that can help them in practical ways to protect and preserve their water sources.
In their own special, courageous and determined way, they will DO something about sustaining water in our country and in our world.
Today there are:
- 1.1 billion people living without clean drinking water
- 2.6 billion people lacking adequate sanitation
- 1.8 million people dying every year from diarrhea diseases
- 900 children dying every day from waterborne diseases
Liani and Maria are passionate about South Africa – its natural beauty and its people. They are strongly aware of the impact that water pollution has on our rivers and our seas – the effect it has on our environment and our communities. And they passionately believe that they can do something, in their own small way, to make a difference in the waterways of our country and our world.
“Ripples for Good” objective part one, is to circumnavigate South Africa - unaided, including travelling across a small portion of Namibia and Mozambique - using various modes of transport such as motorbikes, bicycles, canoes, scuba diving and by foot.
They will do this in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), to raise awareness around the importance of protecting our waterways against pollution and waste – thereby providing safe drinking water for all communities of South Africa as well as protecting the diverse wildlife along our rivers and in our seas.
The specific objectives of the expedition will be as follows:
- Link communities with existing water organizations so that sustainable assistance can be provided with river clean-ups, recycling and sanitation
- Link communities with water organizations in on-going projects that provide employment opportunities for members of the community
- Raise awareness of water conservation, the importance of safe drinking water and recycling with the general public.
- Highlight problem water areas found en-route on rivers, in towns or on coastlines where help is needed.
Background info on our travels...Thanks Liani
By "us", I mean 2 girls, Maria Botha and Liani Broodryk, 2 Jack Russels, Katryn and Dante on bicycles, and our amazing journey through South Africa. This is how it started:
It was one night, at a get together, surrounded by friends and family, when the reality of the moment struck. What was usually fun and games, turned stale, suddenly! Stuck in the proverbial rut! The moment was too big to ignore, so, the obvious question was, where to go from here? So as if by design, we set off to St Lucia, to new horizons, self discoveries, and a tremendous awakening.
The 'challenge' was met once we rode into Cape Town, 3 months later, after some close calls and never felt before, intense moments, we knew that this was not the end by a long shot. So, it is here, where our journey truly begins. Everyday just suddenly had a reason, and every moment counted. It was difficult, the obstacles seemed impossible, but with this came the discovery of kindness, trust, love, humbleness and courage, and the loyalty and trust of animals and nature alike.
We became aware of a whole new world, one that was so endless in it's possibilities and opportunities, we almost couldn't believe it! Threatening this world however, is ignorance and the lack of fearless leaders, ones who inspire individuals to understand and pursue their innermost truth, instead we are misguided and made to believe that war and terror is our only choice. In the midst of all this violence and outrage, is some truly amazing individuals, who have made it their life's work, to reach out to those who have lost hope, and despite efforts to promote confusion, rage, fear, distrust, the way of the world as it is told through mighty mediums, such as the media,
Since we've left St Lucia, our lives have changed dramatically. We saw that through what we were doing, and by challenging our own fears, we were starting to capture the imagination of many and soon realized that our story needs to be told. It is one worth telling, for it could very well be everybody's discovery.
Through weird coincidences, we have joined various organizations in their efforts to heal the wounded, preserve mother nature, etc.. We realize though, that what we experience first hand, could be an effective enough medium, to relay the truth about the state of our country and it's people. It's not as 'bad' as everyone fears, in fact, it's an amazing adventure, and this is how we thought it should go:
We have thought to relay our adventures on a website, which will basically contain our daily diary, pictures, video footage, live chats, etc. A wildly interactive site, aimed at showing off the beauty and diversity of our country and it's people, and at the same time, raise awareness for issues and pandemics that needs attention.
What is SOUL? And HOW do we live a soulful life?
Behind all of these human desires is the creative impulse of soul. It moves through each of us and through the world we create.And when we can understand, love and respond to soul, we find meaning in all of our experiences – even the difficult ones.
On the other hand, when we resist the movement of soul within because we don’t understand what’s happening, we become ill, have accidents, experience emotional pain, struggle with money, work and relationships … Life becomes a real challenge.
Mindfulness is a word. Nothing more, nothing less. As a word it is a symbol or a sign. As a sign or symbol it points to a way of looking at life in general and one's own life in particular. Mindfulness points one in the direction of being aware of the present moment.
Mindfulness points to: Being aware of and paying attention to the moment in which we find ourselves. Our past is gone, our future is not yet here. So what exist between them is the present moment. If I can observe and not get caught up in my thoughts, it is all that I have. The here and now, the present is the link which holds what was and what will be. My past was a series of present moments which brought me to this present moment. My future should it happen will be a series of present moments effected by only present moment in which I am now living, being, doing, observing, being aware or unaware, and attentive or unattentive.
While mindfulness is a generalization about paying attention and being aware in the present moment , it occurs only in the individual. That individual makes a choice to be in the moment and be aware of what is happening in the present moment. In that choice is a realization.
You are not your thoughts. Thoughts take us away from being here now. If I am thinking about the past, or worried about the future, I am a prisoner of my thoughts. When I take a moment to observe myself having thoughts, I am no longer the thoughts. I get to be and observe at the same time. That's why if I continue to come back to my breath which always occurs in the here and now, it draws me into the present. From that vantage point I can observe as past and future attempt to draw me away from the moment. This paying attention to the here and now, to the breath, to the observing one's thoughts without being critical or judgmental is what many people call Mindfulness.