We need to plan for wa­ter

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION -

THERE’S a proverb that ex­horts us to make hay while the sun shines. While it might seem ir­rel­e­vant in sunny South Africa, th­ese words can ap­ply to deal­ing with our wa­ter scarcity, cli­mate change and how we should re­spond. Although it might be too late for Cape Town to avert the im­mi­nent dis­as­ter, other ma­jor cities can still do a lot to en­sure their “Day Zero” is kept at bay.

West­ern Cape Premier He­len Zille has ac­cepted the in­evitabil­ity of Day Zero with a 60% chance South Africa’s sec­ond big­gest eco­nomic re­gion will run out of wa­ter. That day is about two months and a few weeks away.

Clearly, a num­ber of things should have been done – but, sadly, were not – by the DA-run city and prov­ince, as well as the ANC govern­ment.

The un­think­able is about to hap­pen, no mat­ter how blame is ap­por­tioned. A per­fect storm is brew­ing with in­tra-party trou­ble within the DA, and the usual in­ter-party bick­er­ing and fin­ger-point­ing fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the cri­sis and the re­sponse to it.

This comes at a time when South Africa des­per­ately needs unity of pur­pose from our lead­ers in deal­ing with our peren­nial prob­lems of un­em­ploy­ment, in­equal­ity and poverty. On a mis­sion to woo in­vestors in Davos, Switzer­land, Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa de­scribed the cri­sis as a to­tal dis­as­ter. In­deed, it spells dis­as­ter for our econ­omy.

Dur­ban and Jo­han­nes­burg, as well as many other im­por­tant eco­nomic cen­tres, have their share of wa­ter prob­lems. The time has come for earnest, de­ter­mined and united plan­ning and ac­tion to deal with our na­tional wa­ter chal­lenges. Let’s stop the blameshift­ing,. It will not make the prob­lems go away.

We need to deal with prob­lems be­fore they de­velop into crises, when un­scrupu­lous op­er­a­tors take ad­van­tage and peo­ple tend to over­re­act and take im­pru­dent de­ci­sions, such as stock­pil­ing, lead­ing to un­in­tended neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

We also need to stop our prof­li­gate be­hav­iour and start treat­ing wa­ter like the pre­cious gift it is in our arid coun­try. A new fac­tor will be our new nor­mal for a long time: cli­mate change.

Our lead­ers must unite to say never again and act while the sun shines.

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