Emergency funding to stave off the dreaded Day Zero, when the taps in Cape Town will run dry, could be more easily accessed should the national government declare the drought in many of South Africa’s provinces a national disaster.
The meeting of the inter-ministerial task team meeting on the drought and water scarcity has announced this process could be finalised soon, with a declaration of a national disaster possible by Valentine’s Day, February 14.
“Currently, efforts are underway to classify the drought as a national disaster,” Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen said.
“This process will be finalised on or before 14 February 2018. This will legally assign the responsibility to the national executive to coordinate the disaster, while a declaration is being considered to be finalized within a period of a month.
“The declaration will empower the Minister or his Delegate to issue Regulations and/or Directives in dealing with the drought disaster. We are convinced that this will enhance current measures to deal with the disaster. It will also ensure that provinces, which are not currently declared, can be covered through measures to prevent and mitigate against the drought situation.”
Van Rooyen said the drought in the Cape Provinces (Western, Northern and Eastern Cape) was having a “profound negative impact” on the economies of the affected provinces.
“Recent reports indicate that the tourism sector in these areas is feeling the shock particularly in the Western Cape. These points to the multi-dimensional negative impacts of the prevailing drought and the negative effects it has on our developmental aspirations. Government can therefore not sit idle while the situation deteriorates.
“To this effect, the Inter Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on drought and water scarcity (as established in 2015) has been actively championing integrated efforts to ensure that the country responds effectively to the drought situation. This IMTT reports and provides updates to the relevant Portfolio Committees regularly,” Van Rooyen said.
“Even as we are seized with the challenges of drought, it is important to note that there are three categories of our people that must be served equitably as part of the transformation agenda, notably:
a) Those that are yet to receive water
b) Those that have just received water – albeit minimal
c) Those that have access to water
“Above all that has been said, the drought situation cannot be examined in isolation from the primary development challenges facing the country,” Van Rooyen said.
He said current provincial dam levels made for grim reading.
Eastern Cape: 60.7%
Free State: 64.9%
North West: 67.4%
Northern Cape: 76.2%
Western Cape: 23.7%
“Fellow South Africans, while we acknowledge that the drought has become a huge challenge, a number of measures have been implemented nationally and are bearing fruits,” Van Rooyen said.
“Those measures include:
a) Issuing of early warning messages on a regular basis;
b) Drilling and equipping of boreholes across all provinces;
c) The application of water restrictions to regulate use of water;
d) The provision of animal feed and fodder;
e) Water tankering in areas of severe need;
f) The promotion of the use of drought resistant cultivars;
g) Reduction of water usage by industries and other users such as crop farmers;
h) Change of timing of cultivation and irrigation, etc.
j) Water conservation and demand management
k) Re-use optimisation
“In addition, an amount of R74.8 million was given to the Western Cape Province in August 2017 to deal with the situation. The only challenge is the slow pace of using the allocated funding that are geared to alleviate the impact of drought on particular sectors.”
The department of water affairs and sanitation would continue to monitor the levels of the 214 major dams, as this information is critical in understanding the situation around availability of water in the systems, he said.
“As South Africans, we are stronger when we are tested and together we can prevail over this challenge. Working together, we can save water,” Van Rooyen said.