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THEMBA KHOZA | Communities must report vandalism of water and sanitation infrastructure

File image.
File image.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Water is life and sanitation is dignity. Access to water is a basic human right and proper sanitation gives people dignity and ensures the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and the well-being and protection of the environment from degradation.

But how can we ensure that people have access to reliable water supply and dignified sanitation services that are not detrimental to the environment when vandalism is rife and destroying the infrastructure meant to provide these key services.

Infrastructure vandalism is a serious problem in SA as it negatively affects service delivery and socioeconomic development. It affects all facets of life as it negatively affects, among others, electricity supply, rail transport and, worst of all, the basic necessities of life, which is water and sanitation services.

Water infrastructure vandalism leads to serious damages and leaks that result in massive losses of precious water. We cannot afford water wastage and losses, especially as SA is a water scarce and dry country where every drop counts as water has no substitute.

It is about time that we stand up as a nation and stop this problem that is denying people their basic human rights and taking SA backwards. Vandalism is also destroying the economy and has serious socioeconomic implications as money meant for new projects to improve people’s lives must then be diverted to fix infrastructure.

We all need to work together as individuals, communities, the public sector and government to defeat this problem as vandalism does not occur in a vacuum but happens in our communities.

Residents need to report any suspicious activities and infrastructure vandalism to the relevant authorities. We must also never allow people to tamper with the water and sanitation infrastructure as this also has negative consequences in water supply and sewer management.

Let usall be infrastructure police and safeguard our water and sanitation infrastructure from vandalism and theft. The private sector, especially scrap metal dealers must also play their role by not buying and reporting those selling suspicious products. If they don’t buy the materials and report the criminals to law enforcement, there will be no market for the vandals and our infrastructure will be protected.

Law enforcement agencies must also do regular spotchecks of these scrap metals dealers to root out corrupt businesses that are fuelling the vandalising of our key infrastructure.

Government, especially local governments, need to regularly engage, create awareness and update people regarding water and sanitation services projects to get the communities’ buy- in and ownership of the projects and prevent infrastructure vandalism which includes illegal connections.

Illegal connections are a form of infrastructure vandalism that leaves many people without water and leads to sewer spillages that pollute our water resources. The authorities must ensure that there is adequate security to ensure water and waste water treatment plants are well protected, and prioritise operations and maintenance to ensure the reliable supply of quality water and to prevent the pollution of water resources.

Law enforcement agencies, including security companies, must also work together with communities to root out the vandalism. The heartless criminals who vandalise and steal must be removed from society and given hefty sentences.

We can no longer look away and let these vandals steal and destroy infrastructure. It is time to take action and root out this scourge to ensure water security for the current and future generations.

■ Khoza is a communicator in the department of water and sanitation

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