The South African Vaal river, which services up to 19 million people, has been contaminated by raw sewage. The information was released by the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
The Vaal River is a major source of domestic and commercial water to households and companies in South Africa, especially in the Gauteng area. It was also discovered earlier this year that water lettuce, a form of weed, is growing along the river for the first time in history.
South Africa is one of the most polluted countries in Africa
The water contamination comes as no surprise to environmental activists as South Africa is one of the most polluted countries in Africa. In 2019, the country experienced a 1.5% increase in carbon pollution, and it still relies on coal as its source of electric power.
The SAHRC said the Vaal pollution shows that South Africa needs to protect its citizens by focusing on effective waste management. The Vaal Dam services "more than 13 municipalities, 40 mines, and 926 industries in and around the Gauteng province."
The pollution was made public by local and international news authorities, which was then investigated by the SAHRC as a possible human right violation.
The SAHRC says the government is yet to act
According to the report released by the SAHRC, the South African government has not yet responded to the Vaal river pollution, which might lead to irreversible damage to the important water source.
The pollution will hurt the 19million people that depend on the water from the Vaal River. Maureen Stewart, an environmentalist, warned that South Africa's pollution has far-reaching consequences if it continues to remain unchecked.
She added that the Vaal river pollution has contributed to unemployment in downstream industries as people are avoiding the contaminated water. Her comment is supported by data that shows investment in South Africa's tourist industry has drastically reduced due to the contaminated water.