DEA leads South African pilot project on water quality in Port Elizabeth

21 February 2019


The Benguela Current Convention (BCC) Secretariat is currently implementing a water quality testing project titled “Improving Ocean Governance in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem” (BCLME III Project) in Port Elizabeth. This is in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and BCC Parties with an estimated budget of +/- R7million. The project will run for a period of three years in the Swartkops area, Port Elizabeth.

The National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is leading the project in association with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and other government stakeholders and entities.

The BCLME III Project has implemented demonstration projects in each of the three BCC countries (South Africa, Angola and Namibia) on different focus areas. South Africa’s demonstration project is investigating the causes and impacts of impaired water quality on the living marine resources and associated dependent communities in order to develop/improve national standards and guidelines for water quality maintenance in line with Strategic Action Programme (SAP) implementation and domestication of the Convention, in Swartkops as the country identified project pilot site.

The site(s) selected for investigation were chosen based on a number of reasons as agreed by the responsible agencies. In developing the criterion, the following concerns were taken into consideration. A number of mariculture operations are currently undertaken in estuaries, these include mussel farming, oyster farming, commercial harvesting of seaweed, and commercial harvesting of wild mussels. Additionally areas have also been earmarked for future mariculture operations as well as some having been identified as ‘hot-spots’ for targeting economic development.

A number of primary sources of pollutants are affecting the marine ecosystem around South Africa and also potentially impacting on the ‘users’ of the coastal and marine environment. Some of the main sources of pollution come from sewage and effluents from municipalities, other effluent and pollutant discharges from a number of different industries. Types of discharges vary widely from surf zone and estuarine discharges of municipal sewage or industrial wastewater to discharges through well designed offshore marine outfalls fitted with hydraulically efficient diffusers operating in water depths of more than 20 metres.

The demonstration aims not only to develop water quality monitoring standards and practices, but also to maintain the quality as ‘fit-for-purpose’, improve the operation of wastewater treatment,  and improve the environmental practices of industries and commercial establishments. The overall intent is to mitigate or remove the effects of impacts on water quality through ‘concrete’ stress reduction activities such as recycling of wastewater, removal of pollutants before discharge, better management practices by industry and commercial interests.

Existing wastewater treatment will also be adapted to meet specific and higher standards. Communities will monitor water quality for their own welfare, agricultural run-off and sedimentation will be more strictly monitored and controlled, as well as the potentially harmful impacts from aquaculture will be addressed through better treatments and controls.

Stress Reduction will further include the investment in technology and infrastructure on the treatment of polluted water that will focus on low technology, low energy, biological and ecological sensitive approaches. The management actions identified will result in the improvement of the water quality from estuaries and provide a conducive environment for growth in the marine aquaculture sector, thus reducing pressure on the natural stocks.

The South African Government aims to also align the demonstration project with Operation Phakisa and utilize the personnel and mobile laboratories already involved.

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