Army Engineer Formation repairing Vaal water infrastructure

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Starting today (Monday 26 November) the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is rolling up its sleeves and starting work on “cleaning the Vaal River, currently clogged by sewage”.

This is according to SAnews, the government news agency, and follows a visit to some affected areas along the water resource on Friday by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

The agency also reports a full assessment on the extent of pollution in the Vaal River system caused by sewage flowing into the river was done by the SANDF.
“A full assessment has been done and there is a comprehensive report pointing to challenges in different areas and what the solutions for those are.
“Starting Monday, the primary septic tank will be cleaned by engineers from SANDF and they will be working with the municipality,” Mapisa-Nqakula is reported as saying at the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant in the Vaal where she conducted a site visit of the rehabilitation project.

She was accompanied Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela and Emfuleni mayor Jacob Khawe.

Population growth, aging infrastructure, vandalism and lack of capacity are some reasons given by Mapisa-Nqakula for the water pollution.

Communities affected by the sewage are Boipatong, Vereeniging, Sharpeville and Sebokeng in the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

The national defence force’s intervention and deployment of technical teams follows an announcement by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during his October medium term budget policy statement that the defence force had been called in to assist in efforts to urgently rehabilitate the Vaal River system.

The military has only been deployed to the Vaal; 57 municipalities have been identified for intervention and R5 billion is set aside for this purpose.

The Vaal River supplies 50% of Gauteng’s water and Mapisa-Nqakula urged long-term solutions are identified to avoid future occurrences.
“We don’t want a situation where two to three years down the line, we find ourselves back here. We need to do something that will provide a permanent solution,” she said.

The SA Army Engineer Formation has been tasked as the lead military component in what is being called the “Vaal River rehabilitation project” and which is expected to last 12 months.

Last week saw an advance party of about 200 soldiers move into the Vanderbijlpark reservoir complex. ENCA reported the soldiers will set up base at the reservoir with another 300 soldiers arriving in due course to make up the Vaal River task force.

Apart from repair work to damaged infrastructure including pumps and treatment plants, soldiers will also guard infrastructure to prevent theft and vandalism.