A planned R150 billion economic investment in Limpopo by China, which is poised to create thousands of jobs for locals, is being threatened by acute water shortages.
The area, in which the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are to be found, requires a total of 123 million cubic metres of water per annum, while the sites, which encompass the towns of Makhado and Musina, has only 0.3% of underground water available.
The actual construction work for the projects, which include mining and the construction of a power plant, cooking plant, pig iron plant, carbon steel plant, silicon plant and calcium carbide plant, among others, was due to start in August this year and create at least 21 000 jobs.
But six months before development, the Democratic Alliance (DA) slapped the Limpopo provincial government with a memorandum demanding that the implementation of the SEZ be put on hold.
The DA claims the SEZ project will not do any good for the province but impact negatively on farmers, who depend on ground water for the survival of their farms.
DA Limpopo provincial leader and premier elect Jacques Smalle said the effect the proposed SEZ would have on the agricultural sector could be catastrophic.
“ZZ2 (one of SA’s largest commercial farmers) has already indicated that they will not be able to co-exist next to the SEZ.
“The affected area has the ability to produce 60% of SA’s winter food basket. If the development destroys ground water in the area it is firstly the emerging farmers who will suffer the consequences,” said Smalle.
“Air pollution is another concern that will greatly affect the outcomes of agriculture in the area,” he added, in reference to Eskom’s failure to comply with minimum standards on environmental health.
“One can safely say that Chinese developers will not bother to comply with minimum air pollution if the host country cannot even get its power utility to comply.”
The department of water and sanitation’s spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the department was looking at various means of water provision.