Leading water researcher Dr Anthony Turton, has been suspended from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), after he was prohibited from delivering his keynote address at the CSIR conference on 18 November. Titled A Clean South Africa, his address focused on a clean South Africa and highlighted the three strategic water-quality challenges decision makers need to be informed about, and how the CSIR should respond.
Referencing a graph showing the distribution of South Africa’s 15 000 engineering professionals in 2004, Dr Turton stated in his paper that only a few engineering professionals are found in research and at national and provincial government level, while many are found in private consulting practice. “This is again a manifestation of a scarcity of social ingenuity because the incentives haven’t been created to attract and retain qualified engineers to research councils at national and provincial government level,” his paper continued. “What do we need to do about this at national level? Do we wish to avert the water crisis before it happens or are we content with the status quo and happy to deal with it after it has been thrust upon us like the electricity crisis was?
Remember, alternatives to coal-fired electricity do exist and disruptions to service delivery are at best temporary disruptions, and at worst a slow down of the economy and a loss of jobs. “But water is different. Chronic exposure to mycrocystins can cause human health impacts with radioactivity and heavy-metal contamination becoming a new scare in which the panic factor makes managing the process that much more volatile.” The CSIR said the paper was withdrawn due to certain statements which couldn’t be sufficiently substantiated, as well as the depiction of burn victims, which could have offended sensitive members of the audience. They said Dr Turton was suspended for engaging with the media about the withdrawal of his presentation, in contravention of CSIR policy. – Rudi Massyn