R6 to fill your wa­ter can

Took a visit and found com­mu­ni­ties des­per­ate for ev­ery drop

CityPress - - News -

De­spite heavy rains through­out the coun­try over the past two weeks, 2015 was of­fi­cially the dri­est year recorded by the SA Weather Ser­vice in 112 years. Our an­nual rain­fall is 608mm. Last year, we had 403mm. The drought con­di­tions, which have been in place since be­fore the start of 2015’s rainy sea­son, are hit­ting Zu­l­u­land in KwaZulu-Na­tal ever harder, cre­at­ing a mar­ket for wa­ter, with wa­ter en­trepreneurs quickly cash­ing in.

And it is the poor­est of the poor who are pay­ing the price.

In Dukuduku and Kula, two vil­lages near St Lu­cia, ev­ery­one with spare cash is rush­ing to sink a bore­hole. They then sell the wa­ter for be­tween R2.50 and R6 a litre.

The res­i­dents, though, are not happy at hav­ing been forced into this po­si­tion.

“Peo­ple are pre­pared to pay this. Some houses have not had run­ning wa­ter for six months,” said com­mu­nity leader Min­nie Zikhali.

A res­i­dent in Kula, who wished to re­main anony­mous, said he had sunk a bore­hole by pay­ing Mozam­bi­can wa­ter drillers a small fee to find a well on his prop­erty. He did not get the re­quired per­mis­sion from any au­thor­ity.

“I have wa­ter; my neigh­bour does not,” he shrugged, adding he was mak­ing money out of sell­ing wa­ter, “but not a lot”.

Both vil­lages are filled with JoJo tanks, yet there is lit­tle sign of wa­ter har­vest­ing.

“Peo­ple use wa­ter tankers or mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter – when it is flow­ing – to fill up their tanks,” said Zikhali.

Stand­ing in a queue at func­tion­ing wa­ter points has be­come a daily chore for Zanele Dladla. She walks 2km ev­ery day to find wa­ter, and then carts it back to her home in Dukuduku vil­lage.

“It is a strug­gle for us in Dukuduku. Many of the wa­ter points have sim­ply dried up.

“We have to buy wa­ter from those who have. And we pay be­tween R5 and R6 to fill up our can,” she says.

“It is money we would use for food. Now we have to buy our wa­ter.”

She said the fur­ther away your house is from a reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing point, the more you have to pay for wa­ter. “We pay more than the res­i­dents in Kula.”

In Dukuduku, wa­ter cans and con­tain­ers dec­o­rate each wa­ter point. There is a con­stant flow of wheel­bar­row traf­fic mak­ing its way here.

Dladla said she had been with­out wa­ter for sev­eral months.

But this week, the 33-year-old mother cel­e­brated when the wa­ter started flow­ing – for now.

“The rain has been good. But it is not enough. I do not know for how long wa­ter will be avail­able,” she said.

In Kula vil­lage, 11-year-old Nkosenhle Qwabe should be in school. In­stead, he is col­lect­ing wa­ter.

“Most of us who have to col­lect wa­ter are chil­dren,” he said. “This af­ter­noon af­ter school, there will be lots of chil­dren here do­ing their wa­ter work. I come now to beat the queues.” In the line be­hind Qwabe is gogo Dana Ntuli. “I am glad to­day,” she said. “The wa­ter is flow­ing here.

“On other days, there is no wa­ter. Then we strug­gle. We wait for the wa­ter tankers to come. We wait and wait.”

In Novem­ber, at the height of the drought, ac­cu­sa­tions sur­faced that mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials man­ag­ing the wa­ter trucks had started sell­ing wa­ter to res­i­dents.

The Mer­cury re­ported driv­ers were charg­ing res­i­dents in the uMkhanyakude District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in north­ern KwaZulu-Na­tal R500 to fill up their JoJo tanks. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity promised to in­ves­ti­gate.

The drought is caus­ing ten­sion in the area. Pro­test­ers in Mtu­batuba blocked the N2 high­way at the end of last year be­cause of the wa­ter short­ages. Res­i­dents here had not had a drop of wa­ter from their taps in two months.

In Jozini, protests had also erupted as a re­sult of the short­ages in Novem­ber.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment es­ti­mates as many as 40 000 head of cat­tle might have died in the area from the drought so far.

uMkhanyakude spokesper­son Mduduzi Dlamini said the uM­folozi River had dried up at the end of last year. But some rains have eased the sit­u­a­tion for now.

“The dry­ing up of the river has af­fected the wa­ter sup­ply to the ar­eas of Mtu­batuba, St Lu­cia and Nkolokotho wa­ter-treat­ment plants, and caused wa­ter sup­ply to be in­ter­rupted from time to time.”

He said de­spite the com­mis­sion­ing of ad­di­tional bore­holes, there was sim­ply not enough wa­ter for the whole com­mu­nity.

Dlamini added that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was in the process of im­ple­ment­ing “a long-term in­ter­ven­tion” to con­nect a bulk-wa­ter pipe­line from Nsezi River to cover the area.

Res­i­dents in the area, how­ever, said that while the drought was ex­ac­er­bat­ing the sit­u­a­tion, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s mal­func­tion­ing in­fra­struc­ture was one of the root causes of the wa­ter short­ages. Pumps sim­ply were not work­ing in many ar­eas, said Zikhali.

The depart­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional affairs has al­lo­cated R91 mil­lion to the area for drought re­lief. Zu­l­u­land’s crip­pling drought has had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on KwaZulu-Na­tal World Her­itage Site iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park.

Only 30% of Lake St Lu­cia in the park is cov­ered in wa­ter. And most of this wa­ter is be­com­ing saltier and saltier, due to the evap­o­ra­tion of so much of the fresh­wa­ter in the lake.

Lake St Lu­cia is the largest es­tu­ar­ine sys­tem in south­ern Africa and is crit­i­cal for build­ing up South Africa’s dwin­dling fish stocks. It also serves as a fresh­wa­ter reser­voir for com­mu­ni­ties around the park.

But this week the park re­ceived a life­line when iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park di­rec­tor An­drew Zaloumis signed a R10 mil­lion con­tract that will see the Um­folozi River re­con­nected to the lake in what will be South Africa’s largest en­vi­ron­men­tal restora­tion pro­ject.

Back in the 1930s, the river and lake had been con­nected, but dredg­ing op­er­a­tions sep­a­rated the bod­ies of wa­ter in 1952.

The dredg­ing took away the lake’s big­gest catch­ment, the Um­folozi River.

“I’m hope­ful that this will in­ject new life into the lake, restor­ing it to its for­mer eco­log­i­cal height,” Zaloumis said.

While the Um­folozi River had been dry for the past cou­ple of months, some rains had en­er­gised it again, and park au­thor­i­ties were hope­ful that late sum­mer rains could get St Lu­cia’s wa­ters flow­ing again.

Cy­clone En­gi­neer­ing will at­tempt to move about 100 000m³ of dredge soil to open the lake to the river.

– Yolandi Groe­newald

PHOTO: YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD

WA­TER WHEELS Nkosenhle Qwabe (11) should have been in school. In­stead, he has to push a wheel­bar­row with con­tain­ers filled with wa­ter back to his home. De­spite heavy rains through­out the coun­try over the past two weeks, 2015 was of­fi­cially the dri­est year

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