Innovative civil engineering solution to social ills – Manuel

Innovative civil engineering solution to social ills – Manuel

Photo by Duane Daws
Trevor Manuel

10th November 2017

By: Megan van Wyngaardt
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


Unless South Africa and its citizens deal with the issue of widespread corruption, the country will not be able to provide the “kinds of engineering services” that it ought to provide to people, former Finance Minister and Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel has said.

Speaking at a South African Institution of Civil Engineering Young Members leadership event on Friday, Manuel noted that the country was still facing many social challenges that stemmed from a lack of proper planning and engineering.

Transport engineering hasn’t found its proper place,” he stated, noting that areas such as Soweto and Lanseria were still “far away” from the business districts of Gauteng.

This, Manuel said, left open the conversation about reconfiguring the way South Africans live. “We can’t keep building further. If we build further south than Orange Farm, we’re going to be in the Free State,” he noted, adding that, in other major metropolitans across the world, such as New York and Mumbai, the density figures were much higher, at 9 600 people per square kilometre and 32 814 people per square kilometre, respectively.

In contrast, the Western Cape’s density stood at 1 293 people per square kilometre. Yet, South Africa was facing significant water and landfill issues, which Manuel said could be solved through innovative civil engineering.

“There are so many landfill sites around Johannesburg and Tshwane where there are huge problems. There’s seepage, there’s smell, there’s the inability to manage what goes into landfill and there is the fact that we are quite a noncompliant society,” he pointed out.

Water is the biggest challenge for every engineer . . . I can’t for the life of me see why we haven’t been smarter about filtering acid mine drainage. There’s a large source of water,” Manuel said, noting that the idea of recycled water had already been done in the coalfields of Mpumalanga, as well as in Singapore.

Meanwhile, on the issue of ongoing mistrust between government and the private sector, Manuel pointed out that the uncovered collusion that took place during the building of the stadiums for the FIFA World Cup, in 2010, was contributing to these issues.

“There were a heck of a lot of opportunities for engineering and then there was the collusion. It’s a horrible story and I think it has contributed greatly to a large breakdown in trust,” he pointed out.

However, he stated that the private sector was not the sole perpetrator. “There is undoubtedly so much corruption, so much violation of legislation,” he said, noting that the current Eskom enquiry was indicative of the scale of the problem.

“When you have problems in the order of that magnitude, then it limits the ability to do other things. When you have a utility, that’s not a utility – that’s actually a nest of incompetence – electricity, that uniquely generates and transmits and in large parts distributes as well, and you have corruption of that magnitude, then you have a major problem,” Manuel averred.

“What the world needs now is a new approach to engineering,” he said, highlighting China as a prime example of how engineering could be implemented for the betterment of the country’s citizens.

Manuel cited that the country had built 87 metrorail systems between 2009 and 2013, which added 3 100 km to the country’s rail network.

“It’s about finding solutions like that, that I think will bring engineering back into fashion,” Manuel noted.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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