Is there enough water or not

Mr Jan Viljoen, Chairperson of TAU SA North, said that Eskom will have to provide a better explanation of the situation at Ellisras after the comments received from Dr Mark Berry on behalf of Mmabolela Estates. Dr Berry has previously raised these issues which are still not resolved satisfactory.

Dr. Wilhelm Schack, chairperson of the Limpopo Environmental Protection Committee said that the information contained in the response from Dr Berry on the granting of the conditional authorization for the construction of the proposed 4800 MW coal fired power station and associated infrastructure, needs urgent clarification from Eskom and the government. Dr. Berry in his response said “I wish to appeal against the above decision on the grounds that the supply of water for the power station has not been adequately investigated and assured; and that DWAF have not complied with their own legislation (National Water Act 1998) to provide for the Ecological Reserve of the Limpopo river downstream of the project.”

The reason given by Dr Berry is that “the supply remains tenuous in that the studies listed are either still in progress or at a level of detail that the proposed supply of water is unproved, and therefore, not assured.” He further asked “One must ask the question: would Eskom proceed with the development of a R 25 billion power station on the basis of a desktop pre – feasibility study?” further “within the provisions of the National Water Act as stipulated in the National Resource Strategy, there is a need to meet the water requirements of the Reserve (Basic Human needs and Ecological requirements) in terms of both water quantity and quality.”

Dr Berry said in response that information used by Eskom is based on data published in 2003 and consequently their current validity must be questioned given the increased development in Ellisras the past 4 years. He said: “This is confirmed by DWAF letter to Eskom dated 02/06/06 (ref 14/2/A400) where in the attached schedule of Raw Water Supply to Ellisras the actual use in 2005 was 25,5 million m3/a and not the 19,3 million m3/a used in the revised usage Table 4.8. If this is so then there is already a large deficit in 2005.” Dr Schack said it would be almost criminal and it can be seen as grossly negligent to continue with all the proposed developments if the calculation of water availability and quality is not correctly done. He said organized agriculture has a responsibility towards its members and cannot allow the destruction of water sources. He warned that food security might be in real danger if this careless attitude of government and Eskom continues. Further, the quality of water is critical for export farmers as they might lose their Globalgap accreditation if the quality of the water deteriorates further. This will put food security further at risk.
According to the report that water balance at the Mokolo dam based on water allocation is already 5,6 million m3/a in the negative. Dr Berry pointed out that: “Whatever method was used to calculate the reserve, 17 million m3/a is but a fraction of what historically flowed down the Mogol river before the Mokolo dam was built. The riparian and aquatic systems of the river have already been negatively impacted due to impoundment.”

Dr Schack said that the neighbouring countries might have a future claim against South Africa if the water quantity or quality of the Limpopo river is compromised.

Viljoen said that it is quite possible that the farming community in this area will disappear within a few years if nothing is done to stop this massive, destructive mining and industrial planned carnage. He warned that much more aggressive actions and more activists are necessary to stop an activity that might bring in massive riches for a few fat cats, but an activity that will destroy the whole area from Thabazimbi to Messina and beyond for ever.