Protection of water resources key; private sector must consider pitching in

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Business must consider pitching in to ensure community water security, said Malcolm Curror, Chief Executive of United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK). The company said water preservation and equitable distribution is critical in the near, medium and long term.

Access to water and sanitation is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.

Large metros, like Johannesburg, has recently seen water shedding and restrictions impact homes and business. In addition, South Africa is facing a potential dry season due to the El Nino weather pattern and ageing infrastructure. The country is already listed as a water-scarce region and recent reports indicate that the country may face a pending water crisis.

“Water is life, but water also fuels industry and concomitant economic growth,” He added that a water crisis would be exponentially more damaging to the country than load-shedding. “Our mine operates in one of the country’s most arid regions, the Northern Cape desert area, and we have firsthand experience of the impact of its scarcity, both for communities, food security and industry alike.”

Curror said that positive intervention from companies in their geographic places of business could make a significant difference. Where the quantum might be substantial, several companies could partner and, in turn, work with local authorities, stakeholders and other role players to craft and implement sustainable solutions. “Together, key infrastructure development and community development projects that improve the lives and livelihoods of communities can be identified and proactively hedged against any challenge,” said Curror.

And it is possible, said Curror. UMK worked with labour, community and local authorities to develop two water augmentation projects recently that included infrastructure development such as a pump station, an outlet pipeline, reticulation facilities, chlorination facilities, storage tanks and fenced-off boreholes that now deliver a regular supply of clean, drinkable water at the Pompong and Ga-Sehunelo plants in the Joe Morolong Municipal area. The project had a collective price tag of R 15 million.

“Key socio-economic outcomes, beyond the supply of drinking water, included added food security and the potential to develop entrepreneurs in the area. Water can make all of this possible, and the lack thereof can devastate cities, towns and communities,” said Curror.

While these projects were initiated to provide water to previously underserved areas, Curror said that the success and quick turnaround of the initiative evidences that public and private partnerships that aim to preserve a critical resource, like water, can be effective. “It holds the potential to turn challenging situations around while also providing life-giving services to communities who have not yet benefitted from national development,” he said.

“It is time that private enterprise takes up the challenge and starts at home, on their doorsteps, to improve the lives of the communities they serve and, simultaneously, contribute positively to the water security of everyone. We do not want to end up with a major national water crisis when we could have all worked together to prevent it,” said Curror.

For further information please visit www.umk.co.za