‘Drought is a national disaster’
DECLARING the drought a national state of disaster, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize warned that despite high dam levels in Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, the country was not out of the woods yet.
“The reclassification of this drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the coordination and management of the disaster to the national executive which must act in close cooperation with the other spheres of government to deal with the disaster and its consequences,” Mkhize said.
“Today we are announcing the declaration of the drought as a national state of disaster.”
Assessing the grip of the drought, he said at a media briefing that coastal provinces such as the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape were experiencing the worst effects.
At this stage there was no indication of rainfall that would be more than 25mm for the Western and Northern Cape provinces, except perhaps a low likelihood along the south coastal areas.
The Western Cape was also a winter rainfall region.
“It is expected that some rain will start coming as early as April. Measures taken to mitigate the situation in the province have notably started to bear fruit. These include curtailment and restrictions.”
Last week water levels in dams in South Africa improved by a fraction of a percentage, increasing from at least 63.2% to 63.4%, he said yesterday.
“Despite the scarcity of rain, Gauteng has the highest dam levels at 92.8%, followed by Mpumalanga at 77.9% and Northern Cape at 67.9%.
These levels do not, however, imply that these provinces are out of the woods in terms of drought conditions as water scarcity remains a common condition of most of our communities, calling for a change of behaviour and the safe use of water.”
The Department of Water and Sanitation will continue to monitor the levels of the 214 major dams. “This information is critical in understanding the situation around availability of water in the systems to facilitate timeous interventions.” Mkhize said that there were underlying factors, which were exacerbating the drought situation.
The government was working hard to address the crisis. They included weak intergovernmental relations arrangements in development planning and implementation, ageing infrastructure, lack of operations and maintenance of infrastructure, capacity constraints particularly with regard to technical expertise and the governance challenges in the water services authorities.