We need to plan for water
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.