Chelmsford Dam: Local farmers point out no repair work done despite claims

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Chelmsford (Ntshingwayo Dam) and its continuous issues are once again in the limelight, following local farmers pointing out that no repair work has been done at the dam despite claims. 

Issues at the dam first came to light in January 2022, when the Newcastillian – Online News reported on a broken sluice gate.

At the time of publication, the spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Sputnik Ratau confirmed that one of the sluice gates was broken. However, as Ntshingwayo Dam’s sluice gates fall under the national government’s infrastructure, Ratau pointed out that the Infrastructure Management team at the DWS was in the process of having it repaired.

Moreover, while the sluice gate was earmarked to be repaired, Ratau assured Newcastillians that the water levels of the dam were not impacted by the broken sluice gate.

To read the full article, click here.

In April 2022, the Newcastillian – Online News followed up on the repair work. Ratau confirmed that while the situation was not resolved, he pointed out that DWS was finalising the appointment of a professional service provider to manufacture, deliver, install and commission one radial gate at Ntshingwayo Dam.

Yet again, Ratau claimed that there was no water wastage due to the steps taken by the department.

He explained, “Ntshingwayo Dam design includes an emergency gate that is used in cases of emergency or maintenance. During this incident, the department installed the emergency gate to prevent the loss of water. There was no water wasted because of the broken sluice gate because the emergency gate was installed timeously.”

However, local farmers have claimed that the DWS has done nothing to address the problem at Ntshingwayo Dam with large amounts of water being wasted daily. 

“There has been no maintenance done at the dam for about three years. In regards to the broken sluice gate, it is still laying where it fell and the water is still gushing out,” one farmer pointed out, as he stood near the dam wall, showing how water was running out, and a broken sluice gate laid on the riverbed.

Due to the kilolitres of water gushing out on a daily basis, the farmer noted that it was unlikely that the dam levels would exceed 75% capacity. “I reckon, we have lost about 25% of the water volume,” stressed the farmer. 

Additionally, another farmer added that the sluice gate actually broke over two years ago, after the dam levels exceeded its limits and forced the gate out of its position.

He added that he was aware of the Department fitting in an emergency mechanism, but stated that the emergency mechanism was not designed as a long-term solution and the dam was still losing water because of it.

With this in mind, and due to the water loss, the farmer explained that approximately 60% of local farmers were now not planting wheat this year as it was not feasible. 

“We saw problems with the water levels running low, especially as we are now in the winter season. Because the potential of a water shortage impacting both farmers and residents, farmers in the area decided to repair the sluice gate ourselves,” the farmer explained.

He added that this saw farmers employing an engineer to evaluate the issue, and come back to them with a game plan and costings.

According to the farmer, the engineer stated that the issue could be resolved at an estimated cost of R800 000.

With this in mind, the farmers took the necessary steps to approach local businesses for support, of which, a Newcastle business stated that it is willing to assist with the necessary parts. They have also approached the DWS, but have received no joy as of yet.

However, when speaking to the Department of Water and Sanitation, the entity’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau has denied that there is water gushing out of the dam wall.

“The water is being released for water users for abstraction downstream of the dam, as well to maintain the river ecosystem,” he said.

Nothing was said about the broken sluice gate laying along the riverbank.

As for the farmers claiming no maintenance is being done, Ratau said these allegations were false.

He emphasised, “The department uses internal and external maintenance teams to carry out planned and unplanned maintenance.”

Moreover, Ratau stressed that the matter of repair work to the radial gate was resolved by using the service gate. Additionally, he highlighted that the department has finalised the appointment of the Contractor that will manufacture and install the radial gate.

Unfortunately, no timeframes were given on when the contractor will manufacture and install the radial gate.

However, Ratau said that the contractor has been on-site and is working on manufacturing the radial gate. “It should be noted that this is specialised, and therefore it takes time,” he said.

Additionally, Ratau also claimed that the DWS has been on site since the repair work allegedly began.

When looking at the time that has been taken to repair the radial gate, Ratau assured there were no delays. “The department is following the procurement process as prescribed by the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act).”

Despite the local farmers voicing their concern about excessive water loss, the DWS did not agree.

“The local water supply is not affected in any way now and in the future,” affirmed Ratau.

As for the farmers offering to fork out the necessary cash and acquiring the services of contractors to have the radial gate repaired, Ratau said this was not an option and would not be allowed.

“The community cannot repair the problem themselves. This is highly specialised work, and therefore, the community may not have the skills and capacity to do this work. In accordance with the Dam Safety Regulations, the department is responsible for safe operation of the dam,” he elaborated.

With the contractor allegedly attending to the problem, the question now stands, when can the community expect the matter around the radial gate to be resolved?

According to Ratau, there is no matter to be resolved. The reasoning for this, according to Ratau, processes were being followed, and therefore the matter is being attended to by the department.

This is a developing story and as always, The Newcastillian – Online News will stay on it. 

What are your thoughts on the above-mentioned? Share your views in the comment section below.

One thought on “Chelmsford Dam: Local farmers point out no repair work done despite claims

  1. Please keep the public informed of the expected dates of completion of this project and monthly or because its Newcastle yearly progress.

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