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Kasrils: Parliamentary Media Briefing, February 2003 (19/02/2003)

19th February 2003

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Date: 19/02/2003
Source: Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry
Title: Kasrils: Parliamentary Media Briefing, February 2003


PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA BRIEFING BY THE MINISTER OF WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY, MR RONNIE KASRILS, MP, 19 February 2003

1. INTRODUCTION

In a few weeks' time, I will be leading a strong South African delegation to the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. In Kyoto, the water sector will have an early opportunity to review the progress and commitment made at the Johannesburg Summit. My contribution to today's briefing is to highlight the significant contributions government has made in eradicating poverty and underdevelopment in South Africa as far as the water and forestry sector is concerned.

2. COMMUNITY WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION PROGRAMME

We have shown that it is possible to provide all South Africans with access to basic water and sanitation within the framework of sustainable development. Since 1994, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has provided access to basic water supply to over 8 million people. Over the last year 1.2 million have received water supply infrastructure and 50 000 households sanitation. In the process 25 000 person years of temporary employment were provided to 98 000 people, 11 300 of whom received formal training. Government is on target to eradicate the backlog in water infrastructure and sanitation facilities by 2008 and 2010 respectively.

3. FREE BASIC WATER

Adequate, potable water and safe sanitation are essential drivers for poverty eradication. My department is directly addressing this through the free basic water programme, and is in the process to develop strategies for a free basic sanitation programme.

Although there is some way to go, our achievements with free basic water to date have been commendable:

* over 26 million people, 57% of the population, are receiving free basic water
* if one considers only those with access to infrastructure, then the percentage is 73%
* the programme is being implemented by 71% of our municipalities
* all local municipalities and metros have received documentation and tools to assist with the implementation and have also had the opportunity to attend workshops
* the department has established Provincial Support Units in each province and is staffed by trained free basic water specialists.

Free basic sanitation policy and guidelines will be developed through a consultative process and programme implementation commences this year.

4. THE NATIONAL WATER RESOURCE STRATEGY

The National Water Resource Strategy released in August 2002 for public comment has been hailed as the country's "blueprint for survival". Thus far over 1500 comments have been received and are currently being considered. The strategy is the instrument that will protect our water, allocate the right to use, develop and manage it. Despite being a water-stressed country, South Africa can be assured that it has sufficient water for the next 15-20 years. Our main cities have assured supplies of water, which is no small achievement if one considers the current water warnings and shortages in cities such as New York and Melbourne.

5. FORESTRY

In the forestry sector the restructuring of the department's commercial forests has been extremely successful. Forests have been transferred to the parastatal Safcol and onwards to private operators with savings for government as well as important social and economic benefits to communities and black empowerment. This approach has contributed to poverty reduction through job creation, business opportunities and income generation. It is remarkable that this entire process has been implemented with the support of organised labour, who has been engaged in the process from the beginning.

The forestry-restructuring programme involves the restructuring of all former homeland forests, the management of which DWAF took over in 1994. The programme involves the transferring of the commercial plantations to private ownership through open tender transaction process. The plantations were divided into three categories, Category A which were bigger packaged with SAFCOL forests and sold as five packages, Category B forests which are only DWAF forests and will be sold as smaller packages targeting smaller players in the industry and communities and the Category C forests which are community woodlots and will be transferred to the management of communities with a period of state support, financial and technical.

So far, approximately 375 workers (9%) and communities (10%) obtained share ownership in two category forestry packages worth R150 million. Communities identified, as rightful owners of the land will also receive market-related rentals on an annual basis.

The process with regard to Category B forests has begun, with expressions of interest called for in November 2002. The process of soliciting bids for these forests will take place during 2003.

The key policy objectives of this programme include relieving the state of direct ownership and management of commercial forests; promotion of sustainable forest management; promotion of inward investment in forest operations and downstream processing and, widening ownership and access to forestry resources particularly of previously disadvantaged individuals, companies and communities.

6. WORKING FOR WATER

The Working for Water Programme is one of the biggest conservation programmes in the world with an annual budget of over R400 million. Approximately 55% of the workforce is women; 20% youth and 1% disabled. In the current financial year the programme provided approximately 20 000 temporary employment opportunities as well as training. The programme has also created entrepreneurial opportunities for the poor by developing secondary industry opportunities such as wood used for crafts, furniture, building materials, etc.

7. BUILDING A BETTER AFRICA AND WORLD

At the African Ministers Council on Water meeting in Cairo on 5 - 6 February 2003 DWAF contributed towards the formulation of policies that will assist in developing much-needed water supply and sanitation infrastructure in Africa. Together with other African ministers responsible for water the opportunity was used to obtain funding for promoting and introducing integrated water resource management in Africa.

The Third World Water Forum in Kyoto in March 2003 will be an opportunity to constructively engage with others from across the globe to review progress on action plans adopted to meet the targets agreed on at WSSD (2002) for providing potable water and hygienic sanitation for millions that still do not enjoy these basic services.

At home we continue to participate with neighbouring countries to develop and manage shared water resource in a sustainable manner.

In particular, studies are planned for a Lesotho Lowlands Water Scheme to supply potable water to the lowlands of Lesotho and the adjoining parts of the eastern Free State and north-eastern Cape. A Memorandum of Understanding on this joint (bilateral) project should be signed this year.

Continued efforts over the past years to establish relations in the water sector are starting to bear fruit. A bilateral water sector committee has been established with Algeria. This will explore opportunities for service providers in the water industry in RSA to become involved in projects in Algeria to develop water infrastructure and to upgrade the operation of existing infrastructure.

Similarly, relations with other Africa countries are being fostered which will eventually result in promotion of the objectives of the NEPAD initiative.

In the forestry sector DWAF will continue to promote sustainable use of forests in Africa. The Congo Basin Initiative is one example where we are involved. Our relations with the DRC State Forestry Administration are growing. We are working towards concluding an agreement that will encourage co-operation in training, research and practical aspects of forest management.

Working for Water is facilitating the NEPAD thematic focus on invasive alien species. Invasives are a significant threat to sustainable development, with their capacity to transform landscapes, systems and our life-support services. During the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it was announced that the Secretariat of the Global Invasive Species Programme would be based in South Africa. This is seen as a particular honour for our country, and for the Working for Water programme in particular, and can add substantive benefits for the focus on invasive alien species in Africa and the world.

Enquiries: Babs Naidoo on 0828073547
Issued by Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry
19 February 2003
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