Lack of access to clean water unacceptable - Zuma

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pretoria - It is unacceptable that most rural communities still do not have access to clean water, says President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma, who was speaking during the official launch of the upgrade of the Nsezi Water treatment plant in Richards Bay on Saturday, urged local councillors to work together with Mhlathuze Water and other state owned utilities to provide people with clean water, proper sanitation and decent shelter.

"Our communities demand nothing less of us than to deliver on these necessities."

He called for an urgent end to water contamination, saying that spillage of sewerage into South Africa's water supplies would lead to water being undrinkable.

"We must deal with the spillage of sewerage into our water supplies and other forms of contamination. If we don't deal with it urgently, our water will end up undrinkable because of the high levels of contamination."

This follows recent media reports which have confirmed evidence of contaminated water which destroyed crops and livestock among others.

Zuma said government will begin to stream services to the affected areas.

He said challenges in the electricity sector have taught government the importance of addressing future problems before they happen.

"The challenge that we still need to address include an ability by some municipalities to roll out infrastructure, and to operate, maintain and rehabilitate water and sanitation infrastructure," he said.

The President said it was important that the infrastructure was in place to provide clean water to meet the growing demand, because government's objective was for people to have access to water by 2014.

"Our country has a critical obligation to meet the Millennium Development Goals. One these goals is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation," Zuma said.

The President said the launch of the Nsezi Water Treatment Plant is the first step to ensuring that rural communities also get clean water and will service domestic, mining and industrial areas.

"Without water, we run the real risk of not meeting our objective of improving the quality of life of all South Africans, particularly the rural poor."

Zuma also commended Umhlathuze Water for implementing extensive water schemes in Shemula, Mandlakazi and Umkhanyakude in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Proper sanitation and clean water brings dignity to people living in rural areas, he said.

"Having clean water and toilets bring dignity to people living in rural communities. People living in these communities will consider themselves as sub-human if this problem is not dealt with," said Zuma.