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Dear Reader,

This is the third Blue Deal newsletter of the year. We are happy to inform you that our projects are moving forward steadily. During a work visit to Crocodile River, next steps have been taken toward the Green Drop certification of wastewater treatments plants. The Theewaterskloof team celebrated the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Nelson Mandela Day after a clean-up action in the informal settlements. Research has started on how to improve the climate resilience of the Vredefort Dome UNESCO World Heritage site. The Msunduzi River team is working on a review of the project incorporating the outcomes of the CoCreate MyCity event in Durban in June this year. Finally, we got the exciting news that King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit the Blesbokspruit project during their state visit to South Africa.

On a programme level, there are also developments. In July, the Blue Deal Steering Committee had its first meeting for phase 2 live in Pretoria with representatives of South African and Dutch national partners and it was inspiring. There was great interest in the Blue Deal contribution to address wicked challenges of the water sector in South Africa. The Steering Committee requested to meet several times a year in order to monitor the progress of the projects and discuss how they can support. To be continued! Finally, we would like to bring to your attention the REMCO Conference to be held in November that focusses on cross-boundary cooperation.

A lot of activity brings a lot of news, please enjoy reading more about it in this newsletter!

With kind regards,

Marion Wierda (DWA Chief Executive: Blue Deal South Africa, Netherlands), Eustathia Bofilatos (DWS Director: Institutional Oversight, South Africa)

PS. Feel free to forward this newsletter to someone who might be interested!

 

Interview: Mr Allan Zimbwa

The Blue Deal has had the privilege to interview one of the national partners: Mr Allan Zimbwa of Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA).

Read the full interesting interview here.

Milestone achieved: Green Drop Improvement Plans for a better water quality in the Crocodile River

In efforts to improve the water quality and sustainability of the Crocodile River, perhaps the single most important objective of the Blue Deal Crocodile River partnership in Mpumalanga is to ensure that all participating Wastewater Treatment Works (WWWTs) attain the prestigious Green Drop status. As such, a significant milestone was recently achieved with the partner municipalities of Mbombela, Emakhazeni and Nkomazi each successfully developing and submitting their Green Drop Improvement Plans. This significant accomplishment is the result of the successful collaboration between the South African and Dutch partner teams who, through their joint efforts and “buddying” peer-based learning approach, achieved this notable milestone on the journey towards Green Drop status.

Optimising the operation

The Green Drop Improvement Plans focus on crucial aspects of optimising WWTWs performance, such as the development of asset registers and strategies to improve the municipalities' Green Drop score. By prioritising these plans, the municipalities aim to secure the esteemed Green Drop certification, a mark of excellence in wastewater management. To attain the prestigious Green Drop Certification, wastewater systems must achieve scores equal to or exceeding 90%, with different performance area carrying a unique weighting based on regulatory priorities. The certification holds great significance as it recognises the municipalities' dedication to optimising the operation of WWTWs and ensuring the highest standards of treated wastewater discharge.

Towards a harmonious environment

A vital beneficiary of improved water quality is the majestic Crocodile River. The river's health is essential for sustaining important economic drivers of the region (including the abundant wildlife and tourism, as well as both export and local agriculture), meeting the needs of local communities, religious ceremonies and safe drinking water. By striving to enhance the quality of the Crocodile River, the participating organisations are actively working towards creating a more uplifting, sustainable, and harmonious environment for all.

Dr Konanani Khorommbi retired

If you know the energetic Dr Konanani Christopher Khorommbi, also known as Dr KK, it appears incredible that he has reached his retirement age. From the early Kingfisher years onwards he was one of the driving forces for the South African-Dutch cooperation. At the start of the Blue Deal partnership he was promoting this learning program and made multiple suggestions for projects in the Upper Vaal area. The Blesbokspruit and the Vredefort Dome Project are successful results of this effort.

Infectious enthusiasm for collaboration

During the last visit of the PMT, we had a farewell dinner with Dr KK. A lot of memories were exchanged, like the signing ceremony of the Partnership Agreement in February 2020, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Vredefort Dome and the opportunity to meet with the newly appointed Minister Mr. Mchunu. Also his infectious enthusiasm for collaboration and his assistance of young colleagues was recognised. Even after his retirement he is assisting students for their graduation.

Inspiringly explaining

It is difficult to select only one picture out of the numerous occasions he was active in the Blue Deal South Africa Partnership. We chose a picture of Dr KK amidst all the Blue Deal colleagues, explaining inspiringly the results of (his) Blesbokspruit and Vredefort Dome projects as model for learning opportunities even in times of the COVID pandemic.

We wish him and his family many years in good health.

Goodbye and many thanks to Hein Pieper

In August we said goodbye to Hein Pieper, dijkgraaf of Waterschap Rijn en IJssel, who has been Chair of Blue Deal South Africa during phase 1. With his vision and passion for international cooperation, he stimulated Dutch Water Authorities to participate. As a token of appreciation, he received a cartoon of himself. It was made during the Blue Deal conference in Johannesburg last November, where he signed the Memorandum of Understanding for phase 2. His role will be taken over by Co Verdaas, dijkgraaf of Waterschap Rivierenland, the new leader of the Dutch Water Authorities in South Africa.

Vredefort Dome: A unique status demands action

The main priority of the Blue Deal project of the Vredefort Dome is water quality. But it is not just an area where water quality needs to be improved. We are talking about a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site (WHS). It can be compared with the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Kinderdijk’ in the Netherlands. UNESCO asks for strengthening the present status of the World Heritage Site of the Vredefort Dome.

Blitz operation

That requires action and the WHS cannot do that alone. That is why there was a so-called Blitz operation in early September. The area was checked on possible activities that lead to deterioration of water quality. The Dutch Blue Deal delegation was the special observer at this operation.

Discussions on improvement

A major impact on the water quality of the Vredefort Dome is the effluent from the WasteWater Treatment Work (WWTW) of Parys. The Ngwathe Local Municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation are involved to implement the needed improvement of the Parys-WWTW. The municipality is also an important partner in improving the water quality of the Vaal River in the Vredefort Dome thereby strengthening its World Heritage status. The Blue Deal working visit in late August and early September also involved climate adaptation research (see next contribution).

'Navorsing na die Sluise van die Hemel in die Koepel van Vredefort' (Climate change study in the Vredefort Dome)

KIWI is a learning program of the Dutch Water Authorities. It is an acronym for ‘Knowledge and Innovation Water Autorities International’. This program is closely related to the Blue Deal. The KIWI’s act as climate game changers, stimulating climate adaptation in water projects. This is the impression of KIWI Leendert Visser during his work visit to the Vredefort Dome project:

'Our project at the Vredefort Dome aims to improve the water quality of the Vaal. As a KIWI, I am exploring how the Dome's environment will change with climate change such as changing rainfall patterns. The Vredefort Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage site as the largest known meteorite impact structure on earth. Dating back over 2,000 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme. With a radius of 190 km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded, on the borders of the three provinces namely: Gauteng, North West and Free State. For the first few days, the challenge for me was to get to know the project better.
The KIWI part began in seriousness on Friday when we were guests of North West University. They are in the process of preparing emergency response plans for the Vredefort Dome and they asked me to help think about this. In July, we already had a very enjoyable, digital workshop and now in real life! On Monday, 4 September 2023, we met with DEDECT (province of North West) to discuss their climate analysis and strategy. This was an interesting conversation for both sides, where I was able to provide them new insights and they provided them to me.

I think these talks will help me come a long way with the area scan. After work, we naturally enjoyed the beauty South Africa has to offer, I was able to purchase some braai attributes and we listened to African music when we were on the road.'

Theewaterskloof project: Nothing About Us Without Us

“Nothing About Us Without Us”: A slogan that exactly expresses what the Blue Deal Theewaterskloof project in South Africa is doing: meaningful participation by all partners, importantly with the local community as guiding project members. Since only an enrolled community leads to sustainable change.
The ultimate goal of the Theewaterskloof project is to address the diffuse pollution threat emanating from rapidly growing informal settlements by improving sanitation and decreasing solid waste pollution. The project is rolled out in the towns of Grabouw and Villiersdorp in the Theewaterskloof Municipality, Western Cape, as a learning incubator site to address the local sanitation and solid waste challenges.

The highly anticipated Blue Deal Theewaterskloof work visit took place from 9 – 21 July 2023. It included a team building session with all partners involved. A clear way forward was discussed and steps to enable action plans were made.

Nelson Mandela Day

July 18 marked a special day: the Nelson Mandela Day. The worldwide Mandela Day Campaign message encourages people to use 67 minutes of their time to support a chosen charity or serve in their local community. The 67 minutes symbolise the number of years the former President fought for human rights and the abolition of apartheid. The project team joined forces with local communities in Villiersdorp and Grabouw and took this opportunity to make a difference, which included a river clean-up, painting of a day care centre and fixing of associated sanitation facilities.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding

This was followed by the signing of the Blue Deal Theewaterskloof Local Memorandum of Understanding by the core partners; namely, Dutch Water Authorities, Theewaterskloof Local Municipality, Department of Water & Sanitation: Western Cape, and the Breede-Olifants Catchment Management Agency. In doing so, the partners expressed their support and commitment. Indeed an important moment for the project, led by a local pastor's prayer, celebrated with singing and dancing.

REMCO Conference 6 – 10 November 2023

Following the success of the REMCO Conference held in South Africa in 2021, we are thrilled to announce the upcoming REMCO Conference scheduled for 6 – 10 November, 2023, in eSwatini. The REMCO conference is proudly hosted by the Joint River Basin Authorities. Recognising the crucial roles that women and young professionals play in water governance, the first day of the conference will be exclusively dedicated to them under the theme "Women & Youth in Water". Even so, men are also welcome to join this day. Some site vists will take place on the final day of the conference.

Cross-boundary cooperation and water governance

The conference agenda places a strong emphasis on cross-boundary cooperation and water governance, addressing critical issues at the forefront of our industry. Topics will include transboundary cooperation, managing institutional and legal barriers, climate adaptation, the impact of eco-tourism on water management, along with strategies to harness its benefits. Additionally, innovative solutions and ideas will be shared to facilitate mutual learning among participating countries, including eSwatini, South Africa, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Germany and more.

Knowledge exchange

Ample opportunities for networking and knowledge exchange will be available, promising a dynamic and engaging event for all attendees. This conference will serve as a valuable opportunity for professionals to come together, fostering meaningful connections and facilitating the exchange of knowledge in support of the Learning and Development Strategy of the Blue Deal partnerships in eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa.


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