Des­per­ate for a drop

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

Light drops of driz­zle do not hide the des­per­a­tion and mis­ery on the wet faces of the young and old who queued for wa­ter yes­ter­day in Mazista town­ship. In the queue, they wish it could rain harder to en­able them to col­lect more wa­ter in their green rain­wa­ter tanks. The town­ship, near Swartruggens, North West, is one of many that have been hit by acute wa­ter short­ages dur­ing the coun­try’s worst drought in more than two decades.

The Swartruggens Dam has dried up com­pletely and un­der­ground wa­ter lev­els are dis­mally low, leav­ing bore­holes in­ef­fec­tive and the com­mu­nity parched and hope­less.

Some short-term hope ar­rives in the form of 100 000 litres of wa­ter de­liv­ered by Oper­a­tion Hy­drate Ini­tia­tive SA – an or­gan­i­sa­tion formed two weeks ago amid the re­cent heat waves and wors­en­ing drought. In the rain, Mazista res­i­dents flock to­wards the sports ground soon af­ter a truck pulls in.

Stand­ing in the 50m-long queue is Maria Modise, who waits her turn to re­ceive four five-litre bot­tles of drink­ing wa­ter. They are not enough to last her fam­ily for a day, but they make a dif­fer­ence. The mother of four de­scribes the wa­ter sit­u­a­tion in her neigh­bour­hood as “be­yond hope­less”.

“I have been liv­ing here since 2011 and wa­ter has al­ways been a rare com­mod­ity. This pu­ri­fied wa­ter is an ut­most lux­ury. The whole town­ship re­lies on in­con­sis­tent wa­ter sup­ply brought in by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in wa­ter tankers,” she says.

Each house in the area has a wa­ter tank linked to its roof and gut­ters for har­vest­ing rain­wa­ter.

“There has been no rain­fall and these tanks have been empty. There is some driz­zle to­day and we’re pray­ing for it to rain harder so our tanks can fill, but it is not look­ing promis­ing at all.”

Modise says she and her neigh­bours de­pend on a bore­hole on a nearby farm, but even that wa­ter has be­gun to run out.

“Our chil­dren don’t play any more, be­cause most of the time they are queu­ing for wa­ter or push­ing wheel­bar­rows in search of it. We are now forced to boil the wa­ter we get be­fore con­sump­tion be­cause most chil­dren have been get­ting sick from it,” she says.

Fur­ther down the queue, an­other res­i­dent, Dina Taukobong, says their gov­ern­ment houses were built with flush­ing toi­lets, but they are un­able to use them.

“We can’t af­ford to flush toi­lets with clean wa­ter. That is why you don’t find any­one dis­pos­ing of dirty wa­ter from bathing or laun­dry ... we use it to flush toi­lets, and this is lead­ing to flies and a foul smell in our houses,” she says.

Kgetleng Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity mayor Kim Medupe says some bore­holes in the area have dried up com­pletely.

“We were de­pend­ing on the Swartruggens Dam, which has also dried up, so now we’re re­ly­ing on wa­ter tankers,” she says.

Oper­a­tion Hy­drate Ini­tia­tive SA co-founder Yusuf Abram­jee says the re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing from cor­po­rate spon­sors and com­mu­ni­ties. By the end of this week­end, they will have de­liv­ered about 2 mil­lion litres of wa­ter in North West and the Free State.

“The sit­u­a­tion is dire out there. Hospi­tals, schools and clin­ics are also af­fected in many ar­eas,” says Abram­jee.

Also de­liv­er­ing wa­ter to the needy is Gift of the Givers, which has been work­ing in the Free State and the Eastern Cape. Water dis­tri­bu­tion co­or­di­na­tor Ali Sayed says that be­cause of in­creas­ing de­mand, the or­gan­i­sa­tion is drilling bore­holes in ar­eas south of Bloem­fontein.

“One bore­hole has al­ready been drilled and an­other will be done next week. This is a long-term in­ter­ven­tion that will en­able us to get wa­ter from this source and de­liver it to the needy through­out the af­fected ar­eas,” he says.

“Wher­ever you go, there is no mois­ture in these ar­eas. You can see from the com­plex­ion of the peo­ple there that they are thirsty. The knock-on ef­fect in this sit­u­a­tion is health prob­lems, and that’s what we’re try­ing to avoid – sit­u­a­tions where peo­ple will turn to con­sum­ing dirty wa­ter,” he adds.

PHO­TOS: LEON SADIKI

PRAY­ING FOR RAIN Young mem­bers of the com­mu­nity – young and old – leave a sports ground yes­ter­day af­ter col­lect­ing wa­ter from a de­liv­ery truck in Swartruggens, North West. Yusuf Abram­jee and his team have been dis­tribut­ing mil­lions of litres of wa­ter to af­fected com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing #Oper­a­tionHy­drate

DE­JECTED Maria Modise SLIGHT RE­LIEF Mazista res­i­dents flock to the sports ground soon af­ter a truck loaded with bot­tles of wa­ter pulls in

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