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Water is one of the most fundamental and indispensable natural resources. It is essential for life, the environment, health, food production, industry and power generation. In South Africa, water is a limited resource, the scarcity of which is exacerbated by uneven distribution, both geographically within the country and seasonally. Due to this variability there is an ever-present risk of water shortages and restrictions, with consequent limitations to social development and economic growth.
The DWAF is entrusted with the responsibility to protect, use, develop, conserve, manage and control the water resources of South Africa. Consistent with good governance and sound water resource management and planning, the DWAF is committed to the development of national strategies and policies that are aimed at conserving and developing South Africa's water resources in an integrated, rational, equitable and sustainable manner.
The provision of adequate supplies of water in the VRS has enjoyed a high priority within the DWAF for many decades. The VRS supplies water to six provinces, viz. Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Northern Province. Collectively, these areas support a major proportion of the country's population, produce more than 50% of South Africa's economic wealth, and yield 85% of South Africa's electricity supply.
Current estimates of the water resources versus demand in the VRS show that the risk of shortages becomes greater than that which is deemed reasonable to ensure economic security somewhere during the first quarter of this century.
Augmentation of the VRS water resources, therefore, becomes crucial. However, it is believed the need for augmentation can be delayed by implementing water demand management and water conservation measures to curb the excess use of water in the VRS.
In 1994, the DWAF initiated the Vaal Augmentation Planning Study (VAPS) to provide a comprehensive and sound basis for decision making by national government concerning the best means of managing and providing water supplies to the VRS. As part of ongoing water resource development and management at national level, the VAPS considered such aspects as non-augmentation, demand management, the desalination of sea water, the importation of water from sources outside South Africa, and inter-basin transfers within South Africa. One of the latter options was the regulation of surplus water in the Thukela River Basin and the transfer of approximately 15 m3/s via the existing Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme to the VRS.
The TWP was investigated at Reconnaissance and Pre-feasibility levels so as to inform decision making by National Government. At Pre-feasibility level of study, the TWP showed sufficient merit for the DWAF to commission a comprehensive Feasibility Study in 1996. The primary aim of the TWP Feasibility Study was to investigate all factors that might affect the viability of the development proposal. To this end, the TWP Feasibility Study was designed to provide DWAF with information and data necessary to compare further phases of the Lesotho Highland Water Project with the Thukela Water Project as possible options to augment the water resources of the VRS.
The TWP Feasibility Study commenced in late 1996 and took three years to complete. The study comprised 16 modules and culminated in a Main Feasibility Report supported by approximately 60 module reports, summaries and other documents (as indicated in the Structure of Reports).
Click here to go to > The Structure of Reports < for the TWP Feasibility Study
Public involvement formed a cornerstone of all previous phases as well as the TWP
The programme of public involvement comprised meetings, services, products and general liaison activities. It is widely acknowledged that the public involvement programme for the TWP Feasibility Study has achieved its aims and objectives, and, importantly, has successfully applied the recommended principles of public participation. This is evidenced by key aspects such as:
After a lengthy and inclusive public involvement programme, the DWAF believes that stakeholders in the Thukela River Catchment have been afforded the opportunity to participate meaningfully during the TWP Feasibility Study. In addition, stakeholders from further afield have also participated, but to a lesser degree. Various positive and negative issues and recommendations have been raised by stakeholders. These are not statements of fact but, rather, opinions and perspectives. Importantly, they have been accommodated within the Feasibility Study where applicable, appropriate and possible.
Importantly, the Public Involvement Programme has continued beyond the end of the
Feasibility Study, albeit at a lower lever of intensity. Nevertheless, a seamless
interface has been achieved between the Feasibility Study and the Decision Support
The TWP bisects the uThukela Region of KwaZulu-Natal, an area of approximately 11 000 km2 located in the north-western part of the province, between the port of Durban and Gauteng, part of the industrial heartland of the country. The Drakensberg mountain range and neighbouring Lesotho form the western boundary, the Free State, the northern boundary, and the Mzinyathi and iNdlovu Regions of KwaZulu-Natal the eastern and southern boundaries, respectively.
The uThukela District Municipality, with various Local Municipalities and Traditional Authorities, provides the institutional backbone of the region. The uThukela Region has a Gross Geographic Product of approximately R 2.1 billion which represents 2% of the economy of KwaZulu-Natal. The population of the uThukela Region is estimated to be 650 000 people (1998), which equates to approximately 7% of the population of KwaZulu-Natal. It follows that the per capita contribution to economic activity is well below the provincial average. This low level of economic activity has resulted in a small regional tax base as illustrated by the regional fiscal deficit of R 292 million in 1998.
Economic activity in the region is primarily focussed on manufacturing. The agricultural sector is mainly based on beef and game farming in the eastern and central sub-regions.
Dry land agriculture and irrigation farming occur in the upper, or western, sub-region.
Tourism and ecotourism appear to be growing economic sectors, primarily focussed
on the natural beauty and splendour of the Drakensberg Mountains, game farming
enterprises and white water adventure activities.
Ladysmith is the largest town and serves as the main administrative and economic centre.
The towns of Estcourt, Weenen, Colenso, Winterton and Bergville will also be affected by one or more of the components of the TWP.
An estimated 74% of the population of the uThukela Region is rural and relatively poor. By optimising the design and configuration of the TWP it will be possible to align and place infrastructure, such as roads, electricity transmission lines, telecommunication lines and buildings, in a manner that benefits these rural communities into the longer-term.
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