Imtech helps South Africa to solve part of its water problem
With its corporate citizenship programme ‘Shared Success in Developing Countries’ (SSDC), Imtech wants to contribute to the sustainable development of South Africa in the framework of its own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Recently two Imtech development teams left for South Africa to work on improving the provision of water and the promotion of water consciousness in the Gert Sibande District Municipality. The goal is to drastically improve the operational output of several local water purification systems. This output forms part of the input for generating clean drinking water for the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria by improving the quality of effluent discharged from sewage treatment plants that are located in the Upper Vaal River catchment areas.
Imtech CEO René van der Bruggen: ‘Imtech’s CSR policy has been well designed during the past several years and is in the CSR vanguard within the technology market. Our corporate citizenship policy has taken us to the Gert Sibande District Municipality (in the former Transvaal), Johannesburg and Pretoria to help in solving water problems. Safe and clean water is vital, not only for health, but also for economic prosperity. We have sent our top specialists and have pro bono invested approximately 1 million euro to contribute to solving water problems. Imtech has a wealth of knowledge and experience available in this area and is one of the strongest technology companies in the water sector. This specific technological knowledge naturally puts us in the perfect position to help. The Dutch embassy in South Africa is also actively involved with the project.’
Water is scarce
Around four million people around the world are still waiting on clean and safe water; approximately 900 million have no access to reliable water sources, and more than three billion people are dependent on contaminated water with all the resulting health risks. The main causes of water’s scarcity are the continuing population growth, climate change and increasing prosperity in large parts of the world. In South Africa this means that clean and safe water will soon be an extremely limited resource for poor households. In part because of this, the South African government has drafted an action plan to make water purification more efficient, to produce more clean water and to promote water consciousness. South African President Jacob Zuma recently formulated the goal of reducing water waste by 50% by 2014. Because of that, Imtech has focused in its CSR programme on the topic of ‘water and sanitation’.
A group of eight Imtech specialists from five different countries worked in two teams on the project, each using their own expertise. The specialists were supported by extra knowledge from the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The participation of a specialist from the South African branch of Imtech brought local knowledge and skill to the project. The objective is to professionalise the structures of the water management system in the lagging Gert Sibande District Municipality. This is done by developing a management information system, and by consciousness-raising and training of operational management and water management employees. Moreover, a business plan is also being compiled to drastically improve the operational output of several local water purification systems. This output forms part of the input for generating clean drinking water for the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria by improving the quality of effluent discharged from sewage treatment plants. A consciousness-raising programme, including water knowledge contests, has been performed in primary schools.
For this project Imtech co-operates intensively with the Gert Sibande District Municipality, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), which is responsible for water management in South Africa, and various local aid organisations and NGOs (including Imtech’s own CSR partner NOVA) who all have experience with local regulations and working methods. There are also contributions from Schneider Electric, an Imtech partner specialised in energy management that is sponsoring the hardware and software for the management information system, as well as from Alex van Groningen, an Imtech partner specialised in management training, that is contributing financially. Imtech’s partner within SSDC is SharePeople, an organisation that connects sustainable entrepreneurs in developing countries with professionals from the European business community. Together all of those involved are contributing to the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable economic development in South Africa.
Dutch Embassy in South Africa is actively involved
The Dutch embassy in South Africa is also actively involved with the project. Starting with the theme ‘The Netherlands, Waterland’, Dutch ambassador De Vos spoke recently in South Africa about water at the University of Pretoria. The ambassador emphasised the importance of involvement of the international business community in solving water problems on a global scale. The ambassador mentioned Imtech as a good example of an active company that involves itself in water issues. The embassy supports the Imtech project with a special project manager who is researching whether the Imtech approach can be applied more widely in South Africa.
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