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A clean Vaal River will boost development, says tourism association

An excavator clears debris at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Improving the waste-water treatment facilities will open the door to more development in the area.
An excavator clears debris at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Improving the waste-water treatment facilities will open the door to more development in the area.
Image: Alaister Russell

The billions needed to fix sewage-treatment infrastructure and for maintenance of the Vaal River system would be an investment with the potential to transform the Vaal into a vibrant economic hub.

That's the view of Rosemary Cloete-Anderson, chairperson of the Emfuleni Tourism Association and MD of Stonehaven on Vaal, a garden restaurant in the area.

Cloete-Anderson was speaking this week after a visit by human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu to the Vaal River to assess projects to clean up the system.

Cloete-Anderson said the deterioration of the wastewater infrastructure in the system, which consists of three wastewater treatment works, 44 pump stations and 2,600km of water networks, had led to an apparent moratorium on new developments in the area.

“What that means is that any new development that is applied for that entails a significant amount of effluent discharge has not been approved,” she said.

This meant there were applications that had been approved by the council but could not go ahead because there was insufficient wastewater infrastructure to cope with any more effluent entering the wastewater system, she said.

Some of these developments included hotels on the river, 30,000 student beds, a glass-bottling factory, a brewery and retirement homes.

Cloete-Anderson said an alterative for developers was to establish their own “package plants”.

This entailed private sewerage works designed, built and paid for by developers on their own properties, under strict criteria set down by the municipality.

Emfuleni local municipality denied there was an official moratorium on new developments.

Spokesperson Stanley Gaba, however, said the municipality had not been able to make improvements to its wastewater infrastructure.

A DA councillor in Emfuleni, Edward von Bodenstein, said there was a lag in the development of a regional sewage-treatment plant in Sebokeng to deal with effluent in the area.

“In the meantime, people who want to construct new developments should develop their own sewage-treatment plants for the development to come on board,” Von Bodenstein said.

He added that he knew of a school development in Emfuleni where the institution had to develop its own “treatment plant” for building of the private school to be approved.

Cloete-Anderson said, “So the R6bn that is required to rectify the sewerage infrastructure and support the forward-going maintenance thereof in the Vaal is actually an investment in the Vaal, since these developments can then go ahead, which are worth billions in capital injection in the area.”

Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) and the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce announced this week they had suspended legal action against the government to give minister Sisulu a chance to clean up the polluted river system.

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