The Federation for a Sustainable Environment has handed over a petition to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) demanding the reinstatement of suspended water research scientist, Dr Anthony Turton. The petition was signed by 1,463 national and international scientists, academics, representatives of non-governmental organisations and various political parties from 27 countries.
Anthony Turton, a fellow of CSIR, was suspended after criticising both the council and the government for failing to address the impending water crisis in the country. The petitioners have called his suspension an “attempted silencing of the truth about South Africa’s water crisis” and a “major attack on the constitutional right to freedom of expression”.
CSIR withdrew a paper  that Turton was to present as the keynote address at the council’s Science Real and Relevant conference in Pretoria in November 2008. [...] His suspension occurred a few days later, after he talked to the media about the withdrawal of his paper.
The paper argued that the country had already run out of surplus water and that because most rivers and dams were highly polluted, they had lost the ability to dilute effluents. He predicted that the country was headed for a crisis that could not only affect its economic growth and its development but also lead to social unrest. He also warned about increased levels anti-retroviral load in the rivers as a result of South Africa’s high prevalence of HIV and Aids. “These complex chemical compounds will be entering the human population over time, either through drinking water or via produce that has been irrigated with contaminated water,” he wrote.
CSIR has stressed that Turton was not suspended for his views but for bringing the council into disrepute.
In the meantime, Turton has started a new project, the Dream Team, to tackle the country’s water supply problems. Comprising of foreign venture capitalists, engineers and scientists, the project is developing a strategy to assist science councils, government and municipalities manage the country’s water supply.
 Read Turton’s paper “Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to Know About and How the CSIR Should Respond” here.
Sources: Sharon Davis and Aisling Irwin, SciDev.Net, 05 Dec 2008 ; Jacques Breytenbach, Pretoria News / Independent Online, 14 Dec 2008 ; Arthi Sanpath, Daily News / Independent Online, 10 Dec 2008