Economic tipping point warning as parts of Nelson Ma…


With around 20 days to go before Nelson Mandela Bay’s first supply dam fails, the Metro suffered a series of water cuts on Wednesday as pipes burst and the Nooitgedacht system was dismantled to maintenance.

From the water of Nelson Mandela Bay dashboard, the two main metro supply dams, the Churchill and Impofu dams, are expected to fail in 20 and 27 days respectively.

(Graphic: Rudi Louw)

Earlier in May, at a public meeting, Barry Martin, the Metro’s water and sewerage boss, warned that one of the major problems with Nooitgedacht’s water supply system, which carries water from the Gariep Dam on the Orange River to Nelson Mandela Bay, is that it has no reserve capacity and if there is a failure the system will shut down.

The Nooitgedacht project has been hailed as a “saving grace” for the metro, which is in its seventh year of a devastating drought. However, infrastructure projects that would allow water from this system to be available throughout the city and increase Nooitgedacht’s water supply are lagging behind.

On Wednesday morning, the Nooitgedacht sewage treatment plant reduced its water production due to the low level of the Scheepersvlakte balancing dam, which supplies the treatment plant with raw water.

The supply was restored, but conditions were not sufficient for the Nooitgedacht sewage treatment plant to operate at maximum capacity, the metro said in a mid-morning statement. This has caused tank levels to drop, the Metro said, urging residents to use water sparingly and warning of low water pressure.

Processing work was due to resume full production at 7 p.m.

nelson mandela bay broke a pipe
Workmen repair a raw water pipe in Groendal, Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. (Photo: provided)

But earlier in the day, just before 9am, the Churchill Dam pipeline burst, with water supplies to some Gqeberha reservoirs cut off. Tanker trucks had to be deployed in several suburbs.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the Groendal sewage treatment plant also had to be closed after a raw water pipe burst. With no Nooitgedacht water on hold, residents were urged to keep water usage to a minimum to avoid disruptions.

At 5 p.m., the metro said the Nooitgedacht water treatment plant was slowly increasing the plant’s output. The level of the Motherwell Reservoir had risen from 5% to 23%.

Due to low water levels, the transfer booster pump stations had to be briefly shut down, which further interrupted the water supply to the western parts of the subway. The pumps were restarted at the end of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Mayor Eugene Johnson met with civil society organizations to explain what the city was doing to stave off day zero, according to his spokesperson, Tango Lamani.

Wednesday evening at the Nelson Mandela Bay Annual General Meeting Chamber of Commercethe organisation’s president, Loyiso Dotwana, warned that the metro economy was at a tipping point and the delivery of basic services was collapsing.

“We are either at the dawn of a rapid descent to the bottom or at the start of a new path forward – where decisive action is taken to fix what is broken and we can begin to open up new opportunities” , said Dotwana.

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Political instability has resulted in a dysfunctional municipality, he said, pointing out that apart from the water crisis:

  • The municipality had not appointed suitably qualified people to key positions;
  • There was a lack of integrity in the procurement processes, which resulted in the non-delivery of essential services;
  • The lack of maintenance of water, electricity and sanitation infrastructure has caused water leaks and power cuts;
  • Rampant and uncontrollable vandalism of key municipal infrastructure, such as cable theft and vandalism of substations, has had dire consequences for businesses;
  • Dangerous roads riddled with potholes;
  • Delays in rezoning applications, which can take years to be approved, resulting in the loss of much-needed metro investment and jobs; and
  • A general lack of cleanliness in the metro.

“The political and administrative leaders of the metro must put aside their differences…and bring about the stability needed to make the metro work again,” he said.

“I must also stress the importance for our metro to adopt a much more proactive approach to respond to what awaits us in the future. Climate change, for example, must be high on the agenda because of the enormous risks it poses, a prime example of which includes the recent extreme flooding and resulting infrastructure damage in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The chamber’s rapid assessment of the impact of climate change on Nelson Mandela Bay indicates that continued droughts, followed by storm surges and floods are becoming the normal weather pattern.

“Through our Eastern Cape Climate Change Coalition, we will push for early warning systems to be in place, adequate disaster management planning, enabling the Baakens River Valley and Swartkops estuaries to become natural carbon sinks and the implementation of other essential mitigation measures.”

The chamber also announced a resurgence campaign, aimed at boosting positivity and inspiring action, while recognizing what different stakeholders could influence and control, the organization’s CEO, Denise van Huyssteen, said during Of the reunion. SM/MC

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