Water governance challenges for the Limpopo River Catchment Will the proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone really benefit the already water-scarce Limpopo province?
The Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) plans do not fit into South Africa’s energy, Just Transition or water planning, and do not respect local residents’ wishes or the biodiversity in the area, said Dr Victor Munnik when presenting his research. With the announcement from China that it would no longer support overseas coal projects, the prospects for this megaproject are fast diminishing.
At a webinar Monday, convened by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), conflicting views were expressed in the discussion of the latest report by Dr Munnik, of the Society Work and Politics Institute at Wits University, titled: Water for the EMSEZ mega-project at all costs — a report on the absence of water governance in the Limpopo River Catchment.
The CEO of the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) State-Owned Corporation (SOC), Lehlogonolo Masoga of the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), faced a barrage of questions from animated panelists, while the Department of Water and Sanitation remained silent.
In welcoming participants Uta Dirksen, the FES South Africa country representative, referred to the social democratic principles that guide the FES and noted the relevance of the research under several of the foundation’s thematic work areas, particularly on Just and Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, which addresses the urgent need both to mitigate and to adapt to climate change and involves supporting alliances for a just transition at global as well as local levels.
Munnik reviewed findings of last year’s report looking into anticipated water supply and demand in northern Limpopo, in the context of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for the proposed southern site of the MMSEZ, which recently published a final EIA Report for public comment by 12 October 2021. Projected water demand for the proposed minerals beneficiation industries, of 80 million cubic metres per annum, prompted this further research into the status of implementation of legislation on water governance.
Munnik characterised the “Electro-Metallurgical” component of the SEZ as a “late coal project”, as it flies in the face of South Africa’s commitment on climate change, to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is not changed by the latest MMSEZ revisions that reduce the size of the coal-fired power plant and shift some of the industry, inlcuding a cement plant, away from the southern site.
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Dr Munnik’s report is available for download here.
The webinar was recorded and can be accessed here.