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Source: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
Title: B Sonjica: Sod turning of Berg River Water Project
SOD TURNING OF BERG RIVER WATER PROJECT, SPEECH BY MS BUYELWA
SONJICA, MP, MINISTER OF WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY, 28 July
Ladies and gentlemen, today marks the official beginning of the
construction of the Berg River Dam, and I am honoured to be here to
"turn the sod". The President has emphasised that Government will
develop the infrastructure we need to ensure the ongoing
development of the first economy and the transformation of the
lives of those still in the second economy. Today, we are making
good on that promise.
This project began long before my term of office as Minister began,
and I must pay tribute to the work of my predecessors, Ministers
Asmal and Kasrils in driving this project forward, and in ensuring
that social and environmental issues were taken into
The decision to build a dam is not taken lightly. Building a dam
brings with it a number of costs, financial, environmental and
social. (Current estimates are that the project will cost R1, 8
billion). But it can also bring with it significant long term
In the past, agricultural and municipal water users in and around
Cape Town have experienced frequent water restrictions during the
dry summer months. Added to this is growing demand from the City of
Cape Town. In order to respond to these pressures, Cabinet approved
the building of the Berg River Water Project.
The decision to build this dam followed 14 years of study of the
current and future water needs of the Western Cape, the available
water resources, and an extensive review of the alternative
options. It involved an intensive public consultation process, to
ensure that all interests, objections and ideas were
The project, which will be integrated with the Western Cape Water
System, consists of both the dam and abstraction works. It is the
largest water project currently being implemented in Southern
Africa. The TCTA, which was established originally to ensure
funding for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, has been tasked by
government with funding and implementing this project.
The process of approval of the dam has been in line with
environmental legislation. The Department of Environmental Affairs
and Tourism issued a Record of Decision that stipulated, amongst
other things, that a community-based and representative
Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC) be appointed to ensure
effective environmental management of the project. The EMC has been
established and has already made its presence felt. I understand
that it has not all been plain sailing, and members of the EMC and
the project team have grappled with the role and scope of the EMC.
I have no doubt, however, that the EMC will prove to be an
important contributor to the sustainability of the project.
And I must make it clear that this project does not exist in
isolation. In parallel with its preparation, my Department has
worked closely with the City of Cape Town to encourage promoting
greater water conservation and demand management. A good start has
been made but there is still a long way to go. I hope that the
necessary budget commitments will continue to be made to improve
water use efficiency in Cape Town.
A feather in the cap of this project is that it is the first
project in South Africa that is being implemented in terms of the
public participation guidelines of my Department. These follow the
spirit of the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams (WCD),
which remains a testament to the work done by Professor Kader Asmal
in the Commission.
Indeed in 2001 a review of the Berg Water Project planning,
environmental and public processes was undertaken based on the
guidelines in the WCD report, "Dams and Development: A New
Framework for Decision Making". The process was found to comply
broadly with the best international practice as described in the
The success of this project will depend as much on the benefit it
brings to local people as to the water security, which it offers to
Cape Town. So we will see the construction of 80 houses in the
village of La Motte with preference going to local contractors to
do the building. These will be transferred to the Stellenbosch
municipality on completion of the project for occupation by local
The project will also bring a number of job and training
opportunities to this area, through the 'Franschhoek First'
employment framework. This specifies minimum employment and
procurement targets for the employment of local labour and small
businesses on the project. Other opportunities created by the
project include a R20 million Working for Water project in the
previous La Motte State Forest, more than 600 direct jobs on the
main construction contract, as well as skills development and
training programmes that will increase the marketability of the
An all encompassing Sustainable Utilisation Plan (SUP) will be
developed by TCTA to ensure the effective utilisation and
integration of infrastructure, skills, training, business
development and recreational opportunities to the benefit of all
members of the Franschhoek and Dwars River valley communities. The
SUP will also guide the process of handing over processes and
structures to the local communities.
I challenge the TCTA to develop a SUP that addresses the gender
challenges in a very real way. We must provide skills, training,
and business opportunities to women so that they can play their
role in economic development and poverty eradication. I say this
not just because I am a woman, but because there is ample evidence
of the immensely positive impact that the employment and training
of women has on social and family well being.
I will be following the development of the SUP with keen interest,
because this will not only provide the framework for the
utilisation of the structures created by the project, but also the
guarantees for ongoing development on the back of the project after
The funding of the Berg Water Project received a huge accolade when
the international rating agency Fitch awarded it the highest credit
rating for a project of this kind: AA+. TCTA deserves to be
congratulated. Well done, Martie and the team! That rating was
achieved on the foundation provided by the agreements between TCTA,
Cape Town and my department. Those agreements will ensure the
viability of the project and offer a model for similar sustainable
resource development projects in our country and further
The project is a mammoth task that needs to be completed in a
limited time to high standards, but I have faith in the teams that
have been mobilised to do the job.
As I conclude, let me remind you that we are here today at a time
when the dam levels in the Western Cape are uncomfortably low and
the water supply situation is precarious. You know that below
average rains over the next month will lead to water use
restrictions throughout the Peninsula. I call on all of you to use
water wisely and well, and where possible, use less!
Let me also say that the drought has not yet lifted in many other
parts of the country. While the late rains at the end of last
summer season brought relief to many hard hit areas, there are
still water restrictions in place in other parts of the country. My
Department is monitoring dam levels closely to ensure that water
restrictions are imposed timeously when and where necessary.
South Africa, as we must keep reminding ourselves, is not only a
water scarce country, but a country that suffers from frequent
We must use water sparingly; we must make every drop count. And
that is what the Berg river project is going to do!
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour for me to turn the sod for
the Berg Water Project.
Issued by: Department of Water Affairs of Forestry
28 July 2004
Edited by: Shona Kohler Creamer Media Research Associate