The recent cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal in the Gauteng province, as well as in Limpopo and the Free State resulting in the tragic loss of 23 lives, serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of reliable water infrastructure.

“When water quality is non-negotiable”. Photo by SAPPMA

“When water quality is non-negotiable”. Photo by SAPPMA

“Access to clean and safe water is a fundamental human right, and a robust water infrastructure is vital in preventing the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera. In this regard, the Southern African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA) has been at the forefront of ensuring the use of quality pipes and pipe infrastructure to safeguard public health and prevent such outbreaks,” explains Jan Venter, CEO of SAPPMA.

The threat of cholera outbreaks

Cholera is a highly infectious waterborne disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It spreads rapidly in areas with inadequate sanitation and poor water supply. Contaminated water sources and unhygienic sanitation facilities create a breeding ground for the disease. Once infected, individuals experience severe diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to dehydration and, if left untreated, death within a matter of hours.

As the death toll and reported cholera cases continue to rise, many residents are blaming the government for a lack of clean water for drinking and other household uses. “This dire situation once again highlights the urgent need to prioritize reliable water infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks,” Venter stresses.

The role of reliable water infrastructure

Reliable water infrastructure encompasses a range of components, including pipes, treatment plants, distribution networks and sanitation systems. High-quality pipes play a pivotal role in ensuring the safe and efficient conveyance of water from its source to communities. By using durable and well-maintained pipes, the risk of pipe bursts, leaks and contamination is significantly reduced, thereby safeguarding public health.

SAPPMA’s commitment to quality pipes and pipe infrastructure

 The Southern African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA) has been actively involved in promoting the use of quality pipes. It formed the Installation and Fabrication Plastics Pipe Association (IFPA) in 2009 to expand regulation of the Plastic Pipe Industry in Southern Africa and pipe infrastructure across the region.

“SAPPMA is comprised of leading industry players who are consistently advocating for the use of correctly manufactured and installed plastic pipes that meet stringent quality standards. This commitment ensures the reliability and longevity of water infrastructure systems, minimising the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks,” Venter explains. He also emphasises the dedication of this industry association to maintaining high standards.

“We believe that the use of quality pipes and pipe infrastructure is crucial in preventing waterborne diseases like cholera. We strive to create awareness about the importance of reliable water infrastructure and collaborate with industry stakeholders to ensure adherence to quality standards.”

When quality is non-negotiable

SAPPMA actively works towards educating stakeholders, including government bodies, engineers, and contractors about the importance of using quality pipes for water infrastructure projects. Through regular conferences, webinars, technical manuals and interacting with the industry, SAPPMA provides valuable information on best practices for pipe selection, installation and maintenance.

Moreover, SAPPMA frequently performs independent audits and tests on samples of plastic pipes manufactured by its members, thereby ensuring they meet the required industry standards. By promoting quality control and compliance, SAPPMA enhances the durability and reliability of water infrastructure systems.

Conclusion

“The cholera crisis serves as a tragic reminder of the critical importance of reliable water infrastructure in preventing waterborne diseases. To mitigate such risks, SAPPMA has been dedicated to advocating for the use of quality pipes and pipe infrastructure. However, we cannot do this alone. We urgently need the support and buy-in of politicians and industry stakeholders to prioritise public health. Only by investing in reliable water infrastructure, communities can ensure access to clean and safe water, reducing the risk of cholera outbreaks and other waterborne diseases,” Venter concludes.