‘Drought is a na­tional dis­as­ter’

Afro Voice (Free State) - - POLITICS - DEN­NIS CRUYWAGEN news@the­newage.co.za

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.

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