ORGANISED business in Nelson Mandela Bay has welcomed the Council’s recent green light for the construction of a seawater desalination plant but warned that a lot more needs to be done if the metro is to stave off the growing water crisis.

Andrew Muir, President of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber said the pending water supply squeeze was likely to impact at least a third of the metropolitan area.

“We appeal to national government to urgently make funding available to support mitigation initiatives to deal with the drought. In tandem with this the Eastern Cape province needs to declare the Metro as a disaster area in order to secure additional funding to support the implementation of these initiatives.”

Muir said key industrial and commercial businesses are located in the zones which are projected to potentially be without water from July.

“This is of great concern to us, particularly in terms of the impact it will have on our local economy. The automotive and related industry, which account for almost 40% of our Metro’s GDP, are located within these impacted areas. So too is Aspen’s sterile facility which will be producing vaccines for half of South Africa’s population.”

He added that while many businesses are urgently investing in measures to develop alternative water supply and to reduce their water consumption levels, not all have the resources to do so. Also of concern, is the increasing cost of doing business in this metro.

“We need an enabling environment in place if we want to retain and attract investment to our Metro. This requires the involvement and commitment of a wide range of stakeholders who need to unite together with the common goal of getting the basics in place.”

Turning to the council go-ahead for the desalination plant, Muir said the chamber welcomed the decision as the facility would provide 15Ml per day to the metro once it was up and running. “It is however critically important that the completion date of May 2022 is achieved.”

Metro spokesperson, Mthubanzi Mniki said the decision, taken during a Special Council meeting held on 30 April 2021, paves the way for the City’s Infrastructure and Engineering Directorate to enter into a partnership with the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) to proceed with plans to fast-track the project, considering the severity of the drought currently facing the metro.

Executive Mayor, Nqaba Bhanga said this showed a clear commitment by the municipality to invest in infrastructure that would secure major investments and improve the local economy.

Muir warned, however, that the metro was, “facing a perfect storm caused by a number of issues, many of which could have been avoided. Inadequate forward planning and the lack of maintenance of infrastructure has impacted upon the reliability of electricity supply.

“Water leaks account for a loss of around 35% of our water, with at least 10% of this happening at schools and hence why the Chamber and its members have gotten involved in initiatives to curb water losses at schools,” said Muir. “Overlay this with the impact which climate change has had from a drought perspective as well as the ongoing threat posed by the covid-19 pandemic.”

He appealed to the relevant role players to prioritise a number of urgent initiatives including construction of as many boreholes as possible within the next few weeks and dramatically step up the repair of water leaks which he said were at an “unacceptable” level.

Muir also stressed the importance of the Nooitgedacht Project, which commenced in 2010 and is expected to yield 210Ml per day by completion and to supply approximately 70% of the city’s daily demand, versus the current 60%.

“Current timing for completion is the end of 2021, and it is critical that this timing is adhered to and if possible, is even accelerated.”

Source: Eastern Cape Industrial & Business