Farmers rip off nation

Shame on us. Farmers are stealing our water, but the state lacks the capacity to do anything about it.

Shame on us. Farmers are stealing our water, but the state lacks the capacity to do anything about it.

Consultants find that up to a quarter of the water used for irrigation from above the Vaal Dam, or 250million cubic metres a year, is extracted illegally. That's about what's stored in the Mohale Dam.

And we've paid a pretty penny for it too. The water is pumped from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to recharge the Vaal River's diminishing flow.

But Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks made the shocking disclosure that the state lacks the capacity to monitor water thieves.

How can that be?

South Africa is one of the most water-poor countries in the world. As expected, we have excellent laws restricting unbridled use of this scarce national resource.

But who cares? Certainly not the venal farmers on the Vaal and elsewhere who know they can simply pump as much of this scarce commodity as they want to make higher profits. No one will even monitor them.

"We are stepping up our efforts in combating noncompliance and we are increasing the capacity of our enforcement unit, the focus of which will be on dealing with these challenges," the minister said before delivering her budget to parliament.

Not a moment too soon, we say. No one should ever get away with stealing from the nation's limited resources.

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