More money in the form of R341 million from government will be used to finish rehabilitation of wastewater treatment infrastructure in the Vaal Triangle – a task handed to the SA Army Engineer Formation by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Making the announcement, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti said the national defence force’s involvement with the project would also see two thousand young people from affected communities trained to guard 44 pump stations to prevent vandalism and other damage. The guards will, according to Minister Nkwinti, be on duty until the end of March next year when the project is scheduled to be completed.
Michael Holenstein, OUTA (the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) portfolio manager for local government, welcomed what he termed “renewed promises of funding for the Vaal River intervention and Emfuleni sewerage system restoration.
He welcomed co-operation between national government in the form of Nkwinti’s Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the national defence force represented by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Gauteng’s Department of governance and Traditional Affairs, Emfuleni municipality, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and the East Rand Water Care Company (ERWAT). All signed an implementation protocol for the Vaal river rehabilitation project last month.
The total cost of the project is, according to Holenstein, expected to be R1.2 billion. An Engineer Formation technical assessment ahead of deployment put the cost of the clean-up at R873 million.
A deployment of more than 200 Engineer Formation personnel, based at the Vanderbijlpark reservoir grounds, work on repair and refurbishment of damaged infrastructure, particularly wastewater treatment plants and pump stations. Other military personnel were initially deployed to provide security at infrastructure and allied facilities.
Units in the Engineer Formation either already deployed or expected to be utilised in the Vaal river Project are the School of Engineers; 2, 3 and 19 Field Regiments; 35 Engineer Support Regiment and 1 Construction Regiment.
When they first arrived on site, soldiers were faced with 44 collapsed facilities which had to be drained and had pump hoses and couplings repaired before other work could be started.
No indication was given on Friday during a high-level ministerial visit to the area of how many facilities soldiers have managed to ensure are working again.