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DECISION SUPPORT PHASE Newsletter 1 - November 2001
Tukela River Reserve Determination
Historical overview of the TWP
Ensuring that South Africa has sustainable water resources is constantly at the forefront of the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry (DWAF). In this regard, the Thukela Water Project (TWP) is one of many projects across the country in which the DWAF is investigating development options to augment supplies to strategically important areas.
For a number of years now, the DWAF has been investigating various options for the augmentation of water supplies to the Vaal River System for the period after the completion of Phases 1A and 1B of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. One option that has merit is the transfer of additional water from the Thukela River catchment to the Vaal River System, utilising existing pumping infrastructure and capacity of the Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme. This option has become known as the Thukela Water Project and comprises two large storage dams (one each in the Thukela and Bushman's Rivers), linking aqueducts (either open canals or steel pipelines from the new dams to Kilburn Dam) and various infrastructure components necessary to operate the system.
To date, Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) have been involved in various TWP study phases, viz. the Reconnaissance, Pre-feasibility and Feasibility Studies. This involvement has greatly assisted the TWP study teams to better understand the environment and potential impacts of the proposed project.
A key outcome of the Feasibility Study is that the further development of the water resources of the Thukela River catchment holds merit. However, from recent work undertaken by the DWAF in compiling a National Water Resources Strategy, it would appear that augmentation to the Vaal River System is not required for a decade or so. This means that the previous urgency with which TWP investigations were conducted, has diminished and has necessitated the DWAF to reconfigure the TWP Decision Support Phase (DSP).
The TWP DSP comprises two main elements:
In both cases, public involvement will build on that already undertaken by the DWAF during previous study phases. Similarly, as with the TWP Feasibility Study, activities comprising the TWPDSP will be managed by a Project Management Team.
DETERMINING THE RESERVE
Understanding the nature of the Thukela River System:
TWP studies are undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the National Water Act (No 36, 1998). One of the most important aspects of the Act is the protection of all water resources and the assurance that there are measures in place to achieve this. One of these measures is the setting of the Reserve, viz. meeting basic human needs and ensuring ecosystem protection. The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry sets this Reserve after giving the public the opportunity to comment.
It is important to note that the Act makes provision for the following priorities in the use of water:
As the RD process has not been developed yet, the process being followed will resolve in a signing off of a Preliminary Reserve. The process has been designed to be easily converted into a Final Reserve to be promulgated by the Minister.
The main objective of the RD study is to determine and recommend to the DWAF the Reserve requirements of the various reaches of the Thukela River and its main tributaries, from source to the river mouth. Broadly speaking, the
Study focus, on determining the quantity and quality of the water
in the Thukela River system, will involve investigations into matters such as river
flows, quality, fish, social importance, riparian vegetation and aquatic
To achieve the objective of the Reserve Determination Study, a careful, systematic programme will be implemented. Although the process, milestones and concepts will be explained in forthcoming newsletters, it is important to note that the study team will focus on the following aspects:
CONSULTING WITH STAKEHOLDERS
The Minister will only consider the recommended Reserve if this has been reached through stakeholder consultation. Thus, it is important that stakeholders understand the nature of the Thukela River
System and the importance of a balance between long-term protection for sustainability and satisfying development needs. While the Reserve Determination study teams will present various scenarios, stakeholders can contribute to the study by commenting meaningfully and reaching consensus on acceptable levels of protection for the river system.
While planning the various channels through which stakeholders will be able to participate in this study, the Public Involvement Consultant took note of the following:
RESERVE DETERMINATION STUDY PROCESS
ANTICIPATED SCHEDULE OF STAKEHOLDER MEETING
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