PHASE 2 METSI A ME – DAM REMEDIATION AND FORESHORE LEASES
Hartbeespoort Dam is a hypertropic dam. This means that our dam is one of 7 in the country that has very high nutrient concentrations and serious water quality problems.
The Metsi a Me project is A biological remediation programme for Hartbeespoort dam. It is also called the Hartbeespoort Dam Integrated Biological Remediation Programme (HDRP). This programme follows a specialist study by the North West Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment in 2005 called the Hartbeespoortdam Remediation Plan. During the same year the programme was launched by the Minister of Water Affairs, while the Department of Water Affairs was tasked to take the lead. Rand Water was tasked to be the implementing agent.
The approach is basically: Removing the bad things present in excess (algae, hyacinths, undesired fish species, litter and debris), restoring natural filters (wetlands) and then regulating water use in the larger catchment area.
Phase 1 of the Metsi a Me project consisted of development of a project framework, implementation of pilot projects and testing of the outcomes of these pilot programmes.
Phase 2 would have been a full scale implementation of the programme.
A public meeting on the Metsi a Me Phase 2 project was held on 18 April 2016. Consultants for the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation (DWS) – Engineerex – shed some light on the latest processes.
It became clear from the meeting that most of the 19 projects initiated with Metsi a Me phase 1 have been stopped. There is little or no work currently continuing in this regard.
The meeting focussed on the Hartbeespoort Resource Management Plan (RMP). The Water Act of 1998 stipulates the creation of Resource Management Plans for the various catchment areas in South-Africa and the creation of a Resource Management Agency combining public and private stakeholders.
It became clear from the meeting that Phase 2 of the Metsi a Me project can only progress once a Resource Management Plan is in place. The current focus is thus on the RMP and not on the remedial programme per se.
It quickly became clear that the RMP covers a very broad range of subjects – creating concerns about the timeframe in which we may see an official Resource Management Plan for our dam.
While the presentation of Engineerex centred around defined RMP objectives by the industry sector, land owners sector and the resource managers group, the meeting eventually transformed into a concerns session, where members of the public stated their concerns about various aspects.
A major concern was the delay of DWS in allocating foreshore management leases. The answer was that 28 foreshore management lease applications had been received and that the first leases would be allocated within a few months. At this stage a prominent business man interjected and stated that there is a legal challenge and that leases can not be allocated. (In discussion afterwards with DWS it is not clear what legal challenge the businessman referred to, since – apart from a letter to DWS threatening legal action – there is no related current legal action where DWS is directly involved.)
While the meeting had been fruitful and can be built upon, the public expectation of being informed of an implementation plan was not realised. The promise was that more information about the actual Resource Management Plan would be divulged at the follow-up meeting, which was planned to take place within 3 months from this meeting.
Some of the important aspects also discussed can be stated briefly as follows:
- Contact detail will be provided to report sewage spillages.
- A dam zoning plan will be presented at the follow-up meeting.
- All parties – including private estates – will need to obtain permits for access to the dam.
- Marketing of public access areas poor – there are no boards indicating public areas.
- We are custodians of a precious piece of nature, with the unique position that it is near large urban areas.
- We need to balance needs between various parties.
- Noise pollution was a problem.
- Better visibility of law enforcing and is required on the dam.
- DWS must assist SAP to counter illegal land invasions on foreshores.
- The possibility was discussed of training regulars to help with regulating boating on the dam (example of Kruger Park mentioned).
- Training of foreshore managers in the remediation programme and general conservation principles is very important.