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All hands on deck: Eastern Cape water crisis

WATCH | 40% of water used in Nelson Mandela Bay is 'lost' — businesses step in

The private sector has stepped in to help Nelson Mandela Bay municipality fix water leaks

23 June 2022 - 15:08 By Catherine White

The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has been aware of the looming drought in the region for years. “Save water” signs have not achieved much as about 40% of water available to the metro seems to be wasted. 

Neighbouring region Kouga municipality recently implemented water-shedding as a result of Nelson Mandela Bay's alleged over-use of water. Kouga deputy mayor Hattting Bornman said: “Kouga is using less than we are allowed to use. Nelson Mandela Bay has been over-extracting from our dams which resulted in the Impofu Dam running dry. Now we have water-shedding.” 

Gift of the Givers, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality have taken hands to augment, save and deliver water timelessly and effectively. The aim is to provide additional millions of litres of water on a daily basis.

Gift of the Givers founder and chair Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said: "There is always hope and possibilities with partnerships being the only rational, meaningful and practical manner to meet the crisis head on and arrive victorious. There's no place for party politics, opportunism or indecisiveness; the metro, its surroundings and 1.8 million people have to be "saved" and it has to be done yesterday."

The water tanker used by Gift of the Givers arrived at Cerebos salt in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday morning to collect and distribute water to areas most severely affected by the water crisis.
The water tanker used by Gift of the Givers arrived at Cerebos salt in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday morning to collect and distribute water to areas most severely affected by the water crisis.
Image: Catherine White

Nelson Mandela Bay business chamber chief Denise van Huyssteen said: “Up until this point it has been referred to as a drought, but it is actually a water management crisis.

“Yes, it's true that our dam levels have reached dangerously low levels and we have Impofu that has already run out of water, but there have also been other concerning issues such as water losses. About 40% of water is lost — 29% of that is leaks. Eleven percent is unauthorised consumption such as onward selling of water, water meter tampering and people illegally topping up swimming pools. So that is where we believe the focus needs to be.

“As organised businesses this is of huge concern to us because we need the basics in our environment to work. We have got involved in things that business wouldn't normally get involved in. We have just launched an adopt a leak initiative, where we have teams on the ground fixing leaks so we can rein in water losses,” van Huyssteen added. 

Dr Sooliman said: "The overall partnership is yielding great results, Aspen, Continental and VW, together with member companies from the chamber, and the municipality (they have put every available plumber to work) are spearheading the repair of several thousand leaks in the streets and at more than sixty schools."

“As a business community, I have been bowled over by the extent of businesses that have come forward and are willing to step up and do the right thing. It is not their responsibility to do this. This is almost another symbol of failure to deliver services and there are other services that are also not being delivered properly. But we have taken the stance where we can whine and moan about everything that went wrong and brought us to this point, or we take action, and it's more about how we move forward. And that is the approach we are taking. We are collaborating with the municipality to fix these leaks.”

The salt supplier says it has invested about R15m in a water desalination system over the past few years because of the drought in the Eastern Cape.
The salt supplier says it has invested about R15m in a water desalination system over the past few years because of the drought in the Eastern Cape.
Image: Catherine White

 Gift of the Givers has drilled six boreholes already, busy with two more, and striving towards thirty as far is practically possible. Gift of the Givers will be adding 15 million litres of water per week to the system, largely through an incredible partnership with Cerebos (the salt people) who have offered us half a million litres of pure drinking water daily through their desalination plant. 

Cerebos salt has agreed to donate 500,000l of desalinated water daily to Gift of the Givers to distribute to affected areas in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro. The first of three tankers arrived at Cerebos on Thursday morning to collect the water. 

Dr Sooliman said: "Coke has provided us with three 35000L water tankers with drivers and fuel for effective delivery of this superb contribution."

Cerebos MD John Drinkwater told TimesLIVE: “Our biggest concern is exploitation. When there is no water people will pay anything for water and certainly we are very comfortable with Gift of the Givers that this product is actually going to go where it is needed.” 

Van Huyssteen concluded: “People are angry because they pay rates and taxes and why should they have to do all of this, but for me the consequences if you don't take action and if us as ordinary citizens don't do the right thing, things are going to continue to slide.” 

Dr Sooliman spoke of a frightening reality, stating that a crisis of this magnitude can never be dealt with alone.

Water collection points have been installed in the Mount Pleasant-Miramar area.
Water collection points have been installed in the Mount Pleasant-Miramar area.
Image: MBDA

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