12 April 2019

South Africa: Blue Scorpions Shut Down Constantia Man's Water-Selling Operation

Photo: Pexels
(file photo).

The Department of Water and Sanitation's "Blue Scorpions" have issued Constantia resident Paul Baise with a directive to stop selling water from a mountain stream.

Baise, who has had the local neighbourhood up in arms for selling the stream water by the truckload, particularly during the height of Cape Town's drought, maintains his commercial operation is legal.

But the department disagrees.

Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said they took action against Baise this week for contravening the Water Act.

"He was directed to cease his unlawful operation. He has to adhere to the directive," Ratau said.

He added that departmental officials would meet Baise this week "as part of checking compliance" with the directive.

Ratau said anyone who wished to sell water needed a water trading licence.

Once an individual has applied for a licence, a departmental committee will assess the application, which includes assessing the impact of abstracting river water on the natural environment and on downstream users.

"We can't have just anyone taking and selling water from rivers willy-nilly," Ratau said.

However, Baise maintains he does not need a licence for his operation, which entails filling trucks with 5 000 litres or more of the mountain water, because he says he sells less than two million litres a year.

Baise confirmed on Wednesday that he had attended a meeting with water and sanitation officials, who he described as "a decent bunch".

"They said: 'This is what we have to do,' and they have the authority. They're not stupid, like the parks people," Baise claimed.

The point at which Baise and two other households in Rhodes Drive, Constantia collect water, meant for their household use only, is on SANParks land, which is part of Table Mountain National Park.

SANParks maintains that Baise has exceeded the amount of water he is allowed for household use.

SANParks spokesperson Janine Raftopoulos said the organisation was in the process of instituting legal proceedings against Baise.

"We feel we have a case here," she said.

'Storm in a teacup'

Baise said he had heard nothing from SANParks about a court case against him.

However, Baise has laid a charge of malicious damage to property against SANParks for allegedly cutting his water pipes from the mountain stream.

"They know they acted illegally. They admitted under oath they cut my pipes."

He says he has also launched a civil case to prevent them from touching his pipes again.

The legal action against Baise this week comes after residents' complaints to various authorities for nearly two years came to nothing.

Neighbour Kevin McGivern said on Wednesday he was pleased that the water and sanitation department had eventually stopped Baise.

"It's the right thing to do. It's high time it came to an end," McGivern said.

Baise, however, thinks it is a "storm in a teacup".

He said when Capetonians had to live on 50 litres a day during the drought, people battled to manage on so little water.

"Government couldn't deliver, so private enterprise steps in. That's a thought to consider," Baise said.

Source: News24

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