Our Burning Planet


More delays in bringing Eastern Cape project online to provide desperately needed water to villages

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu on a visit to theTsomo River abstraction and water treatment works in Tsomo on Thursday. (Photo: Tembile Sgqolana)

Residents of Butterworth will have to wait three more years for water to come out of their taps — the long-awaited Tsomo River abstraction and water treatment works still need a R230m pipeline installed to connect it to the town.

Once completed, the R700-million Tsomo River abstraction and water treatment works in the deep rural town of Tsomo in the Chris Hani district municipality should bring water to 236,000 people from 47,000 households — 78,000 of those people live in 129 rural villages scattered throughout the Mnquma local municipality which falls under the Amathole district municipality (ADM). 

The project, which should have been completed in 2018, will bring relief to Butterworth residents and the villages in Mnquma municipality, 20 villages in Engcobo and 10 villages in Intsika Yethu municipality, all of which are badly affected by drought. 

But the promise of water is still a long way from being realised — a lot of work still needs to be carried out, including the construction of a 7.5ML concrete reservoir and a 23m gravity bulk line with a diameter of 450mm, as well as electrical and mechanical pump installations, among other work.

Last month, ADM spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso said that unless rains came soon, water supply in Butterworth would only last until October.

Even though the project began in 2016 and was due for completion in 2018, it was again delayed until this year.

senzo mchunu
Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu at the Tsomo River abstraction and water treatment works in Tsomo on Thursday. (Photo: Tembile Sgqolana)

According to the Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu, who visited the project on Thursday with his deputy Dikeledi Magadzi, the building of the river abstraction and water treatment works was 99.9% complete — all that remains was to build a reservoir and install a pipeline to Butterworth.

“The pipeline will cost R230-million and it will take three years to complete,” he said.

Mchunu said it was unacceptable to have a project delayed by six years. “We are going to work together with local mayors to fast-track the project,” he said, while not elaborating on what caused the delays.

“We need to have a report detailing the phases and how much each phase costs,” he said.

The minister said water from the project would not only be used for drinking purposes, but for agriculture too. “We want water for human consumption, wildlife, factories, businesses and sanitation,” Mchunu said.

Mnquma Business Development Forum member Zukile Mbelani said businesses in Butterworth had closed due to a lack of water.

“Businesses are closing and leaving Butterworth for bigger cities… However, we are in talks with two breweries who have left Butterworth, trying to bring them back and save people’s jobs,” he said.

Levels of dams supplying water to Buffalo City through the Amatola Bulk Water Supply System dropped from 32.3% last week to 30% this week. One dam in the system, Gcuwa Dam, plummeted to 37.3% this week, from 48.5% last week. Nahoon Dam dropped from 31.0% last week to 29.9% this week. Laing Dam was the only dam in the system that recorded a rise, increasing from 96% last week to 98.7% this week. 

Mchunu also visited the Ndlambe Emergency Bulk Water project. The R172-million project includes the construction of a 2ML per day desalination plant and a 3ML per day wastewater reclamation plant. Once completed, the project would provide potable water to communities in Port Alfred. DM/OBP

Absa OBP

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  • Wasn’t there a similar fiasco in Guyani, Limpopo on water projects, my memory thinks of very bad ANC / EFF smells emanating from that project. Projects are to be completed on time, in budget and of good quality achieving design requirements in accordance with scope of work. So from article, planned start date 2016, planned completion date 2018, it is already 3 years late in delivery now and another 3 years still to go. So a river extraction and water treatment works is now built, very good, but a 7.5 Ml reservoir to store the treated water is not built and from the reservoir a pump station and pipeline to provide water to the end users has not even started construction. Impeccable planning. So from the photo all the hobnobs, including the Minister, are there and complaining that the Project is late and wanting reports. Mr Minister in a well functioning Ministry you should be receiving regular project updates from your Project Management department before you set off on a site visit. I would suggest Project Management students from a local University should be tasked with doing an audit on this prestigious important local project, and determine what went wrong and publish it to RSA citizens. Obviously your PM department was trained on Medupi and Kusile Eskom Projects. Masks are on where are the missing hard hats, Health and Safety? Is there a possibility the pumps will be stolen waiting for the pipeline? Oh Transnet railway lines.