Young Water Ambassadors in North West Province take a stand
Seven learners aged between 12 and 15 years from the Ennis Thabong Primary School in Hartbeespoort have taken a stand on behalf of all young South Africans and submitted a complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission about problems of sewage pollution in the Madibeng Municipality and other South African waterways. This is connected with the failure to provide potable water to communities.
In a number of instances the problems are allegedly due to inadequate or neglected sewage treatment by public services.
The Young Water Ambassadors were alerted to the problem when they began to test water quality near their school in the Swartspruit, into which treated water from the Rietfontein sewage plant in Madibeng municipality is drained. The water quality has been monitored every month since 2010 from within the Conservancy through which the Swartspruit flows, this Conservancy location being the safest and most accessible one for the Young Water Ambassadors. Using the miniSASS biometric monitoring tool, the Young Water Ambassadors’ data on water quality is entered monthly on an interactive Google Earth map with coloured crabs being used as icons to indicate the health class of the river in one of five categories from natural (healthy) to very poor.
The following article published on 20 June refers: “School tests water quality and finds it poor”
Learners in registered WESSA Eco-Schools across South Africa are engaged in the nationwide miniSASS challenge to document the quality of our country’s waterways. Many have discovered that waterways in their area are badly polluted, and the Google Earth map with their data is online at http://www.minisass.org/en/map
The miniSASS is an award-winning initiative of WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) and GroundTruth, a specialist consulting company with a particular focus on environmental issues surrounding water and water resources. The miniSASS research is supported by the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), an implementing partner in this important “citizen science” process. miniSASS is supported by a number of South African organisations concerned with the quality of our water.
The news media have reported extensively on the problem of ineffective sanitation plants and lack of clean water provision in South Africa, dating back to 2011, or earlier, depending on the location.
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) initiated a criminal case in regard to the situation in Bloemhof where very young children have died and hundreds have suffered diarrhoea that affects their everyday lives in unacceptable ways. CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie emphasised: “We need municipal managers across the country to understand that, while there are many pressing needs in municipal management, sewage treatment and the delivery of safe drinking water have to be prioritised above everything else. If these things are not in place, people die.”
The Young Water Ambassadors’ complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission is based on the following human rights applicable in South Africa:
(1) The best interests of the child shall be of paramount importance in all matters relating to the child (SA Constitution section 28 (2); SA Children’s Act 38 of 2005 as amended in 2007 & 2008 (a) (iii) and (iv) & UNCRC Article 3, 1.)
(2) Freedom of expression: Every child who is able, in terms of maturity and stage of development, to participate in matters concerning that child has the right to participate in an appropriate way; such a child’s views must be given due consideration. (SA Constitution section 16 (1) (a) & (b); SA Children’s Act 38 of 2005 as amended in 2007 & 2008, 10, and
The child’s right to freedom of expression includes “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice” UNCRC Article 12 & 13 1.).
(3) Equality before the law and rights to equal protection and benefits of the law (SA Constitution section 9.).
The Young Water Ambassadors explain in the introduction to their formal complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC):
- We are ANGRY because South Africa is polluting our water and this also caused children in Bloemhof in North West Province to die and some were sick.
- We are AFRAID because some children might die or get sick here like the children in Bloemhof.
- We are FRUSTRATED because the adults have tried everything they could do here but the officials did not listen to them.
- We are CONCERNED because animals and water creatures like fish, and insects like damselflies, are dying in our polluted water.
- We feel GOOD about this complaint because what we are doing is going to help our children in Madibeng have good health. Then they won’t miss school and they will learn better.
- We are HAPPY because we are telling the world that South Africa must stop polluting water.
- We are GLAD that South Africa has good laws that give children the right to tell how things affect them.
PLEASE NOTE: The Young Water Ambassadors and school are not available for interviews or commentary at this stage of the process. Updates will be issued from time to time.
For more information please contact:
WESSA Eco-Schools Supporter, North West Province
Cell: 084 422 2439
Dr Cathy Dzerefos
Project Manager: WESSA Eco-Schools, North West Province
Cell: 083 746 2239
WESSA Corporate and Membership Development Manager & Conservation Specialist
Cell: 083 444 7649