Weather­ing the weather

The Star Late Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

SOUTH Africans are count­ing the cost of mother na­ture af­ter vi­cious storms lashed Gaut­eng and KwaZulu-Natal this week. It be­gan on Mon­day when tor­na­does ripped through Krugers­dorp. The storm then worked its way up and across Gaut­eng, killing one per­son and in­jur­ing at least 11 in an orgy of destruc­tion.

Roof sheets were blown off a school in Krugers­dorp, as well as the Cradle­stone Mall in the same area.

Flights at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port were de­layed and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment said about 840 houses were dam­aged.

On Tues­day it was Dur­ban’s turn, with unimag­in­able footage of tor­ren­tial rain and floods. At least 14 peo­ple have per­ished and oth­ers are un­ac­counted for.

No one has any idea what the cost will be to re­pair the dam­age. Most peo­ple are just grate­ful that the rain and the hail have stopped, the har­bour in Dur­ban has been re­opened and peo­ple are able to start pick­ing up the pieces of their lives.

In Cape Town, iron­i­cally, res­i­dents are faced with the fact that their wa­ter sup­plies are fast run­ning out – per­haps even be­fore the much-vaunted de­sali­na­tion plants can be­come op­er­a­tional to cre­ate drink­ing wa­ter from the sea.

The is­sues seem dis­parate – too much wa­ter all at once in parts of the coun­try and noth­ing in oth­ers.

The truth about our coun­try is that we have al­ways been one of ex­tremes – of harsh, mer­ci­less droughts fol­lowed by pe­ri­ods of dam­ag­ing down­pours.

One of the prob­lems is that we haven’t done enough to pre­pare for the var­i­ous pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios.

We have few ways of col­lect­ing the rain when it comes, stor­ing it for the times when there is none.

We seem to have in­suf­fi­cient warn­ing of im­mi­nent dan­ger­ous weather, and far too many peo­ple choose to live in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions, be­low the flood­lines in some cases, but who are not stopped from do­ing so.

Some­times there are mo­ments – acts of God, as the in­sur­ers term them – which we can nei­ther fore­see nor rea­son­ably pro­tect our­selves from, but so too are there times when we should have fore­seen the con­se­quences of drought; we should have built more catch­ment dams but we didn’t.

The ad­vent of cli­mate change and global warm­ing has made this de­bate all the more ur­gent. We might not get an­other chance to make a dif­fer­ence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.