Ravaging effects of climate change already showing
‘Take it seriously or suffer consequences’ How you can make a difference
PICTURE this: parched, cracked earth, starvation, limited access to water and eventually death.
This is a reality if South Africans don’t take climate change seriously.
This crisis is already on the country’s doorstep, with Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland having been declared national emergencies due to continued drought and failed crop production.
At the same time Botswana, South Africa’s largest bordering country, is also sitting on the brink of disaster.
All in all, 50 million people across the African continent could face starvation if crops fail again.
According to a report by the European Union, “the impacts of climate change are going to intensify in the coming decades, thus leading to decreasing water quality and the availability of water resources in some regions”.
Last week, communication specialist at the Department of Water and Sanitation Andile Tshona emphasised that the effects of climate change in our environment were dire and, if left unattended, “we as the people could face a whole lot of extremes such as unrelenting droughts, floods and heat waves which have unprecedented consequences”.
If South Africa is going to combat this, rigorous efforts are needed from all governments, experts, NGOs and the business community to work together and come up with innovative ways to save the future.
“In 2011, the cabinet approved the National Climate Change Response White Paper (NCCR), which sets out the overall national government response to the challenges of climate change,” Tshona explained.
He said the NCCR White Paper recognises water as one of a number of sectors that need immediate attention, “along with health, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity and human settlements, and it also required all government departments to review their policies in as far as climate change is concerned”.
Subsequently, the Department of Water and Sanitation developed and recently approved a Water and Sanitation Sector Policy Position on Climate Change, in line with the Southern African Development Community Climate Change, which includes an adaptation strategy for the water sector, national water resource strategy and the National Development Plan.
The aim is to provide a policy position of the water and sanitation sector on climate change and examine the status quo of water resources in South Africa, as well as the additional dimension that climate change adds to various aspects of managing water in the country.
In addition, Tshona said the policy further outlines strategic actions to address the impact on water caused by climate change, namely water governance, infrastructure development and water management.
“The South African government wants to ensure that all existing instruments in the water and sanitation sector are in line with the requirements of climate change adaptation and mitigation, and that existing sector policies neither conflict with nor hamper adaptation and mitigation in other sectors,” he said.
Achieving climate change-resilient development requires integration of climate change into government planning, which needed to involve all sectors of society.
“Developing climate resilience requires a change in behaviour and consciousness of various adaptation and mitigation strategies by all stakeholders within the sector.
“It’s important to collaborate with sector stakeholders to ensure that all water institutions and water users, including communities, understand the water-related climate change issues and how to respond to them,” Tshona said.
As climate change continues to impact water availability, it was likely to have negative effects on the people, ecosystems and the economy.
“As a result, climate change poses significant additional risks for water security, which has knock-on effects on those sectors highly reliant on water, such as agriculture, electricity generation as well as some mining and industrial activities,” he emphasised.
The government’s aim is to create an enabling environment whereby government, private sector and civil society collectively respond to the economic and social changes necessary for climate-resilient development and job creation, providing for economic and social upliftment.
“Water is such a precious resource that we cannot live without and it is everyone’s responsibility to protect it,” Tshona added. THE Department of Water and Sanitation has suggested some ways to curb climate change.
Reduce energy use and adopt energy-saving habits. Change the way we think about transportation: walk or cycle whenever possible. Insulate our homes. Make every drop count and fix leaking taps. Cool wash and hang to dry. Use only energy-efficient appliances.
Switch to “green power” such as solar power.
Recycle. – Ilanit Chernick
SCORCHED EARTH: The remains of a cow lie on a farm near Vorstershoop in the Molopo region of Limpopo in this file picture. The farmer had to sell 15 percent of his cattle because of the drought and then sold off 45 percent more due to a shortage of grazing.