Skip to Content

Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

Support Us Subscribe Search

News

Contaminated water: Community activists, environmental rights lawyers, academics and journalists head for Northwest

17 October 2014 at 9:21 am

Children playing in Agisanang, Northwest, one of the areas where health risks from contaminated water have been reported. Photo: Ayesha Motala
Children playing in Agisanang, Northwest, one of the areas where health risks from contaminated water have been reported. Photo: Ayesha Motala
Children playing in Agisanang, Northwest, one of the areas where health risks from contaminated water have been reported. Photo: Ayesha Motala

Children playing in Agisanang, Northwest, one of the areas where health risks from contaminated water have been reported. Photo: Ayesha Motala

Next week, a group of 35 community activists, environmental rights lawyers, academics and journalists are taking to the dusty roads of Northwest to talk about persistent problems with water quality, poor waste water treatment resulting in contamination of drinking water. Most  importantly, we will be looking at what citizens, communities and activists faced with the risks of contaminated water can do to defend their Constitutional rights to life, to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being, and to access to sufficient water.

The two-day field trip and workshop will be led by attorneys from the Centre for Environmental Rights, as well as water scientists from Pietermaritzburg-based NGO GroundTruth. GroundTruth will train participants in the use of simple citizen water  quality monitoring tools like the MiniSASS and water clarity tube. Community activists from Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Northwest will share their experiences, and lawyers and other academics from the University of Northwest and University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as lawyers from the Centre for Environmental Rights, Lawyers for Human Rights and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies will provide insights on legal tools available to citizens and communities.

The concept for the workshop arose from the tragic deaths of three infants in Bloemhof, Northwest, in May and June this year. Since then, similar claims of the health impacts and possible deaths of children from contaminated water in other parts of Northwest have also surfaced. All of these concerns were brought to the attention of the Ministers and Departments of Water & Sanitation, Health, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Northwest Department of Health by the Centre for Environmental Rights and Lawyers for Human Rights in early August 2014. Unfortunately, to date none of these departments have answered the crucial questions posed to them, including our request to provide official water quality monitoring results for the affected areas.

The workshop is kindly sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.