Tag: shortage

Water shortage looms in SA

By Steve Kretzmann for GroundUp

A countrywide water shortage is a decade away unless urgent action is taken to rehabilitate and preserve our rivers and catchment areas, fix and maintain crumbling infrastructure and implement water re-use, reports GroundUp.

Without intervention, South Africa faces a deficit of about 3 000 billion litres of water per year by 2030, the Department of Water and Sanitation told a ministerial interactive session on transformation in Boksburg on February 15.

The new National Water and Sanitation Master Plan to ensure water security was presented by deputy director general Trevor Balzar. Along with coordinating budgeting, planning, and implementation across departments and spheres of governments, the Department of Water and Sanitation announced its intention to:

  • Set up a unit to assist municipalities with their water and sanitation;
  • Start a programme to use alternative water sources such as desalination and recycling; and
  • Form a team to fix the water infrastructure.

However, the department’s Green Drop Report, which was welcomed by scientists as a way to improve wastewater management, was not mentioned in the department’s press release, nor in the presentation of the master plan.

But the Green Drop Report, which was introduced in 2009 as an annual audit of the country’s 824 sewage works, has not been published in any form since 2013. How functional these wastewater treatment works are is an indicator of the health of our groundwater, rivers, vleis, estuaries and, where they release into the ocean, our coast.

Cape Flats Sewage flow, green drop report

The last Green Drop Report indicated that over four million litres of untreated or inadequately treated sewage was flowing into our rivers every day, according to Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation member Leonard Basson. He suspects the situation has got worse in the intervening years.

The 2013 report is only available as an executive summary that shows provincial, and not municipal performance. The last full Green Drop Report that drills down into the waste treatment plants managed by every municipality dates back to 2011.

It appears the five-year gap in information is due to a lack of capacity in a department that until recently was run by Nomvula Mokonyane, who was accused in testimony at the Zondo commission of receiving Bosasa largesse. But there is also a strong indication that withholding the Green Drop was a political decision by Cabinet.

Army mops up sewage crisis

In the 2013 Green Drop Report summary, just under half (49.6%) of treatment plants achieved a score of 50% or less, and almost a third (30.1%) were in a critical state. Some have since failed altogether.

Balzar’s presentation says that about 56% of municipal treatment plants are now in a poor or critical condition and need urgent rehabilitation, with some 11% completely dysfunctional. This, states the Department of Water and Sanitation, “is having a significantly detrimental impact on the environment and driving up the cost of water treatment”.

The dysfunction of treatment plants in the Emfuleni municipality, from which raw sewage has been flowing into the Vaal for years, according to Save the Vaal chairperson Malcolm Plant late last year, resulted in the South African National Defence Force deploying technical teams to help restore the crumbling infrastructure.

The polluted Vaal River is a popular recreation getaway for Johannesburg residents and a source of irrigation for agriculture. Fortunately, Emfuleni is downstream from the Vaal Dam, which supplies drinking water to Gauteng.

But according to the chair of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, Lulu Johnson (ANC), the Hartbeespoort Dam, which provides drinking water to Brits, has had raw sewage flowing into it due to breakdowns at the Madibeng municipal treatment works. The dam has been severely polluted for decades due to treatment plant failures in its catchment area, despite almost R1bn spent on trying to clean it up.

Meanwhile, infrastructure failures, combined with drought, have led to severe water shortages in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, where taps run dry for days and residents have to line up to fill containers from water trucks.

All not necessarily well in the Western Cape

The Western Cape, although it achieved the top provincial Green Drop score (84.5% in 2013), had problems with its sewage plants. Some of them were in Cape Town.

The 2011 report revealed that the Cape Flats sewage works in Strandfontein scored only 20% for wastewater quality compliance eight years ago. Whether the Cape Flats sewage works has improved would be of interest to the many Capetonians who swim, fish and surf at Muizenberg and other close-by beaches. Water treated at this plant flows into False Bay.

Similarly, Cape Town’s Scottsdene plant scored 20% for wastewater quality compliance in 2011. Its treated wastewater runs into a series of dams used to irrigate Stellenbosch vegetable farms and vineyards.

One of the worst provincial performers was Cape Agulhas municipality with an overall score of 34%. The municipality’s sewage works at Struisbaai received zero for wastewater quality and its sewage works in Napier scored only 15%.

Oversight falls to civil society

Municipalities may assure residents all is now well, but the gap in information from a separate state body that has the mandate to do so means independent testing of inland and coastal water quality falls to civil society and academic researchers.

Senior Professor Leslie Petrik at the University of the Western Cape’s chemistry department has raised concerns over pollution on the Atlantic Seaboard where marine sewage outfalls are situated.

Dr Jo Barnes, a retired University of Stellenbosch epidemiologist, is looking at the state of the Kuils River and she doesn’t take the City’s statements that all is well at the Zandvliet wastewater plant for granted. But such oversight is ad hoc and has no legislative weight.

Political censorship

One reason for the failure of the Department of Water and Sanitation to produce Green Drop reports, which are currently the only way to keep track of the health of the country’s water bodies, might be because the information they contain is politically embarrassing. The DA-run Western Cape has consistently achieved the highest score, despite having its own pockets of failure, and Gauteng, which is also now in DA hands, came second.

Responding to questions from the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation in September last year, the Department of Water and Sanitation deputy director general of regulation, Anil Singh, said the 2013 Green Drop report had “huge policy implications”.

The transcript of the meeting recorded by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group records Singh as going on to say: “A decision had been made that the reports needed to be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration. The reports had been considered. That was why there had been a non-release of the reports.”

Singh is referring to the full 2013 reports, and there is mention in portfolio committee meetings of a 2016 Green Drop Report, which remains hidden.

Johnson did not want to be drawn on the clear political inference of Singh’s statement, but said there is “a serious issue of capacity in DWS (Department of Water and Sanitation)”.

The lack of capacity meant that not only was no water quality audit produced, but the department was not able to hold polluters accountable, whether they be state or private institutions.

Johnson said the department could not plan effectively when it did not know the quality of the country’s water, particularly given the status of South Africa’s rivers. In Parliament, he said it was “no wonder” there was a crisis at the Vaal River.

No response was forthcoming from the Department of Water and Sanitation at the time of publication.

People are working longer and in countries like South Africa, where we have a chronic skills shortage, workers with years of experience have invaluable knowledge to share at the workplace.

But how should companies adapt to make sure an ageing workforce feel like they still belong?

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, workplace specialists who consult across Africa, says that workplaces need to adapt for an older workplace and have been slow to do so so far.

“Population ageing is a global phenomenon and workplaces need to modify to accept the reality of older workers. It is increasingly important to retain workers as they get into their fifties, typically the time when businesses start to lose all that prized expertise.”

Trim says there are five key office considerations businesses need to retain and attract an ageing workforce:

1) Lighting, especially natural lighting

Natural light should be used in concentration spaces wherever possible, with fabric curtains and blinds to diffuse light. Task lights at the desk are an important consideration for ageing eyes and for reading printouts off-screen, and a lower and more pleasant level of general ambient lighting within the concentration space.

2) Good acoustics

Says Trim:”Having spaces where people who battle to hear can work easily especially with technology such as Skype is very important. We also suggested the use of sound-masking systems like acoustic boards that can reduce distracting noise which are appreciated by everyone in busy offices, not just older workers.”
3) Private space

All generations get sick and tired of work at times and would like somewhere to go to recuperate briefly from the stress and noise of the normal work environment.

“The provision of contemplation space that can provide a calm, quiet environment free from distraction and surveillance is important to making ageing workforces more productive – and evidence suggests it would be popular with everyone,” saysTrim.

Trim says that here Giant Leap advocates strong natural and organic elements, rich with plants, water, fabric banners and adjustable lighting, giving a different feel to the office atmosphere elsewhere.

It isn’t just older workers who crave quiet and privacy when they want to concentrate on solo tasks – or dedicated tools and spaces for collaboration when they want to work in a team.
4) Age Appropriate design

Age-appropriate design that helps, rather than unthinking design that hinders and stigmatises, can make a huge difference to quality of life. “And this was never more so than in considering access to work and the workplace for older people.” Trim noted.

For example older workers don’t want to feel incapable and frustrated by things like unadjustable chairs, confounding IT systems and cupboards that they just can’t reach. That also don’t want to feel they need someone to help them all they time but it’s a quick fix to deal with this.

“Offering things like easy access to files, height adjustable furniture and simple IT can make a difference.

“Older people who have honed their skills in the pre-digital era also prefer to spread out sheets and data, and not worry about confidentiality or tidying away before the project is completed.”

Bigger desks to spread things out and bigger backdrops to pin things up will enhance collaborative modes of working for older people.
5) Wellbeing focus

“Things like user-controlled lighting, ergonomic furniture, natural soundscapes and other humanising features all contribute to a sense of wellbeing,” says Trim.

As mentioned, private spaces that are governed by strict wellbeing protocols for working (for example, no mobile phone calls or loud conversations, as in a library). These spaces should be located away from noisy facilities such as kitchens and cafés, print-rooms or social spaces. They should be equipped with different types of furniture and adjustable settings to allow for a range of working positions, as poor ergonomics and uncomfortable posture will adversely affect the ability to focus.

Conclusion

“While older knowledge workers may well be compromised in the office environment by the inevitable effects of ageing on vision, hearing, posture, memory, balance and dexterity, they tend to compensate cognitively in terms of wisdom, experience and decision making.

“They are also, contrary to popular myth, flexible learners – they have adapted to several waves of business and technological change over lengthy careers. It’s makes economic sense for companies to make them feel at ease in the workplace,” Trim concludes.

Three Mbombela traffic and licensing centres have closed due to shortage of stationery.

Motorists are unable to renew their vehicle licenses, among other things.

It is reported that the shortage arose because the Mbombela Municipality ordered stationery late.

The centre has been closed since Monday.

Usually a hive of activity with motorists and learner drivers seeking services, on Thursday many had to leave without being assisted.

“I came here for learner’s license and I find that it is closed, it is a big problem,” says an applicant.

“I am all the way from Kaapsehoop, all I want is to renew my vehicle license and I am being turned away,” says a motorist.

Another motorist adds, “What if they fine me because my license has expired, what is going to happen?”

Two other centres remain closed, a problem the Mbombela Municipality has promised to resolve.

Municipality spokesperson Joseph Ngala says, “We have a situation were an order for forms and other papers was placed very late, we would like to apologise to the people of Mbombela for the inconvenience caused. We understand that this is something that should not have happened.”

The municipality is hoping that no motorists will be fined during this period.

By Mweli Masilela for www.sabc.co.za
Image credit: www.sabc.co.za

A Scottish illustrator has been credited with boosting the fortunes of the global pencil industry after the surprise success of her “colouring-in” books for grown-ups.

Johanna Basford’s books of elaborately-crafted fill-in drawings have tapped into a huge demand from those seeking to switch off from I-pads, laptops and computer games.

Now, having already topped the Amazon best-seller lists, her tomes are also giving a massive boost in global sales for high-quality pencils, as colouring-in fans compete to make masterpieces of their work.

Far from being a casualty themselves of the digital age, pencil manufacturers are now struggling to cope with demand, with Faber Castell, the world’s largest wood pencil manufacturer, revealing last week that it was now having to run extra shifts at its factories.

“People like colouring-in because they are fed up with digital,” Basford, 32, told The Sunday Telegraph. “There is something nice about picking up a pencil and a pen. You are not going to get interrupted by Twitter, and there is also a childhood nostalgia element to it. The last time you did a bit of colouring in, you probably weren’t about thinking about mortgage or Brexit.”

Rather like other recent middle-class crazes like allotments, ukulele playing, and home-brewing and baking, colouring-in appeals to a nostalgia for a simpler, analogue era.

adult colour 1

However, while it might be healthier than tucking into a home-made sponge cake inspired by the Great British Bake Off, there is still an element of a guilty pleasure to it.

For not everyone approves of university-educated adults dedicating their spare hours to a pastime that – in the view of critics anyway – ranks somewhere below puzzler books and Ludo.
Leading the chorus of disapproval is the comedian Russell Brand, who produced a recent sketch entitled Adult Colouring Books: Is This the Apocalypse?

“What has turned us into terrified divs that want to live in childish stupors?” he raged, accusing colouring-in fans of being scared of the modern world.

Indeed, according to Basford, 32, even her own publishers had doubts when she first suggested the idea to them five years ago.

At the time, the Aberdeenshire-based artist was working as a commercial illustrator, doing hand-designed drawings for companies including champagne and perfume brands.

“I used to do all my work in black and white, and some of my clients used to joke about how they would like to take them home and colour them in,” she says. “I was then asked to do a children’s colouring book, and I said ‘how about doing an adults’ one as well?’. They were a bit tentative, but eventually they went for it, and printed 13,000 copies that sold out within a few weeks.

Basford’s first three books of drawings – some of which can take three days to produce – have now sold some 16-million copies worldwide, with three million alone in China. A new one, Magical Jungle will generate excitement worthy of a best-selling novel when it comes out in April, and her work is also generating all manner of spin-off versions.

There are now colouring books for fans of Game of Thrones, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Who, as well as a Tattoo Colouring Book and even a Corbyn Colouring Book. It features the Labour leader in various guises including as a soccer star, the Mona Lisa, and Moses parting the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, “colouring-in” clubs have formed worldwide, meeting in cafes and online to compare their works, and keeping the lead in the pencil of the stationery industry.
Carlotta Lein, a spokesman for the Bavaria-based Faber Castell, says: “We have noticed the effects of the colouring trend very strongly. Colouring doesn’t require artistic training to get started yet offers a great sense of accomplishment when finishing a piece.”

Basford adds: “Colouring-in fans just love their pens and pencils, they become real artists. I get messages from people in New Zealand and Australia saying there are big shortages now. It’s really nice that something I was passionate about is now shared worldwide.”

And what about detractors like Brand? “It’s a case of whatever makes you happy, there’s no right or wrong about it,” she says. “Who knows, maybe he just hasn’t found the right colouring-in book yet.”

By Senay Boztas and Colin Freeman for www.telegraph.co.uk

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top