Eastern Capes great thirst nears catastrophic

South Africa receives an annual rainfall of 492 millimetres, whereas the rest of the world receives 985 millimetres – meaning South Africa gets half the world’s average supply of water. With the current drought conditions pillaging the country since 2015, water recourses in the country are at an all-time distressing low. However, some provinces in the country have been more affected than others, with the Eastern Cape being the worst-hit area in the persisting drought. With dams running on empty, towns and farmers in the Eastern Cape are left praying for rain. The question stands what is the reality of the drought and what is the government’s plans to boost life back into the Eastern Capes economy? The status-quo The Eastern Cape is rife with drought, with over 50% of dams being less than half full – affecting over forty-four towns where rivers and taps have reportedly run dry. Main dams supplying water to townships across the eastern cape are at an all-time low, with Madikizela-Vuso reporting that the Adelaide Dam and the Nqweba Dam are still at 0% capacity while Bedford’s dam is now at 36%. In many cases towns are relying on groundwater for emergency water supply, which is restricted and rationed for provisions – spokesperson for the Beyers Naude Local Municipality Edwardine Abader, said they are struggling to provide even 10 litres of water a day to residents due to limited resources. The current water status is worsened by ongoing vandalism and load shedding as water pumps stop for extended periods and vandals damage main water pipes, causing massive leaks while trying to steal pumps and Jo-Jo tanks. This damage takes additional time and materials to repair that are not always on hand, causing leaks to go unchecked – wasting thousands of litres per day. The drought’s impact With small towns already suffering from South Africa’s ailing economy, the drought has had a massive impact, with approximately 70% of small-town residents out of work. The households of the Eastern Cape, specifically in rural areas, the agricultural sector and businesses, have been hit the hardest. Since January 2018, the South African agricultural sector has shed over 31,000 jobs in provinces severely affected by the drought and lost approximately R7 billion in turnover. Even with the R74 million donated to farmers by the provincial department of rural development & agrarian reform, livestock is starving due to low dam levels and lack of food supply. This starvation is causing many farmers to shut down due to a loss of income due to premature culling and low-quality meat, in an already crippled economy. Some areas are waiting for as long as 10 days to receive water from tanks, leaving locals to fend for themselves by collecting water from dams shared by livestock. This increases the chance of water-born illnesses to strike such as dysentery or cholera – decreasing already abysmal sanitation levels. The gathering of water also proves a struggle for many, as the disabled or sick have to pay those available to collect water for them at times that the taps are open, which is not always possible. These hardship conditions have left residents demanding the government for a laid out plan to relieve the current drought pressures.

The plan of action Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has told Parliament that her department is on top of South Africa’s water crisis. The plan consists of a call to action to raise awareness, with an investment in the water sector spanning over an initial period of 15 years and beyond. Urging the government that when it comes to water, business cannot go on as usual. Initial donations have been made to Eastern Cape Municipalities for emergency relief – with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs contributing R20 million. Ndlambe Municipality Manager Roly Dumezweni has stated that a long term solution would be to construct a desalination plant, meaning coastal towns would not have to rely on inland water, evening out the supply. However, the funding for this plant would be in excess of R98 million and take years to be profitably functioning. President Ramaphosa has stated that to ensure South Africa’s water security R126 billion is needed for infrastructure – the current plan is to invest wisely in water projects and ensure the conservation of water recourse. If there is one clear fact it is that water is life – whether it be for people, animals, businesses or economies and South Africa is running out. For survival, a new water-efficient era must reign, one where responsible water management and conservation education is given priority and support. So let’s hope that South Africa gets the message – every last drop counts.

https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/we-have-a-plan-sisulu-says-her-department-is-on-top-of- water-crisis-42988608
https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/five-years-of-thirst-eastern-cape-battles-brutal- drought-20191216
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-02-04-e http://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/drought-worsening-in-large-parts-of-eastern-cape/
https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2020-01-07-eastern-cape-hardest-hit-by-drought/ https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/cape-town-water-crisis-drought-disease/ https://www.newframe.com/eastern-cape-water-crisis-nears-catastrophe/ https://businesstech.co.za/news/government/358709/south-africas-water-crisis-will-make- our-electricity-problems-look-small-ramaphosa/

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