Public warned against illegal dam construction

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has advised the public to approach the department’s dam safety office for guidance on application requirements for licences to construct new dams, and to alter or enlarge a dam.

This comes after the Water Tribunal of South Africa’s ruling to dismiss an application by Corona Farm Trust for leave to appeal to continue with the construction of an unlawful dam at Bergview Farm in Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal.

This follows an unsuccessful application made in 2016 by a farmer and trustee of  Corona Farm Trust, David Gace, for a water use licence to build a new dam on Bergview Farm.

According to the department, Gace continued with the construction of the dam on 10 January 201,9 despite not been granted a licence to build the dam. 

“The DWS Dam Safety Section followed up and made a site inspection on 30 January 2019 and held further meetings with the farmer on 1 February 2019, resulting in the notice to issue a directive, in terms of Section 53 (1) of the National Water Act, against the farmer.

“The notice advised the farmer of the contravention of Section 22 (1) of the NWA [National Water Act], which stipulated that the farmer unlawfully commenced with water use [by]  storing water in the dam, impeding, or diverting the flow of water in a watercourse, and to alter the bed, banks, course, or characteristics of a watercourse,” said department spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau.

Following the notice by the DWS, Ratau said the farmer made presentations to the department, but they were rejected, and this led to a second issuing of a directive in 13 March 2019.

“The directive required that the farmer and Corona Farm Trust cease all unlawful water uses and activities, including the construction of the unlawful dam, and to also compile a Decommission and Rehabilitation Plan for the department to approve prior to commencing with the demolition and rehabilitation of the dam under construction.

“The farmer prepared and submitted the deommission plan... but refused to demolish the dam wall.  The farmer subsequently lodged an appeal with the Water Tribunal South Africa against the directive issued in terms of section 148 (1) (j) of the NWA, citing the directive to be irrational, unreasonable, and unconstitutional. The appeal also claimed that the demolition of the dam amounted to deprivation of property,” Ratau said.

According to the Water Tribunal South Africa findings, the dam is an illegal structure and it cannot be retrospectively authorised.

The tribunal also found that the farmer’s conduct was in violation of good environmental governance and rule of law, making it a criminal offence.

The findings further established that the unlawful water use is a potential threat to ecological needs downstream, and any water captured by the dam impacts on water balance and availability in the ecosystem, as the water cycle is connected to rain run-off and feeds into surface and ground water.

The Water Tribunal has given an order that the application for leave to appeal by the Corona Farm Trust be dismissed, and that the directive issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation on 13 March 2019 is still confirmed and needs to be complied with within 14 days.

The department warned members of the public against illegal dam construction, and urged them to approach the nearest DWS offices or contact the Dam Safety Office for guidance on the requirements for licence applications to construct new dams, through damsafety@dws.gov.za.

“The department’s Enforcement Unit (the Blue Scorpions) will continue to enforce compliance with dam owners who contravene the law. It is a criminal offence to construct a dam without the required Water Use and Dam Safety licenses,” Ratau said. – SAnews.gov.za

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