‘Wa­ter lit­er­acy’ starts in schools, say ex­perts

The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Neesa Mood­ley

Cape Town’s suc­cess­ful avoid­ance of Day Zero fol­low­ing its re­cent se­ri­ous wa­ter cri­sis was held up as a shin­ing ex­am­ple by more than 130 global ex­perts who con­vened at the Univer­sity of the West­ern Cape this week.

Cape Town is one of 12 ma­jor cities in the world re­garded as “most likely to run out of drink­ing wa­ter” – the W12 which also in­cludes Sao Paulo, Ban­ga­lore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Is­tan­bul, Mex­ico City, Lon­don, Tokyo and Mi­ami.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors from these cities met with sci­en­tific, pol­icy and non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion lead­ers to de­velop a W12 road map of what they and their part­ners need to do to ef­fec­tively deal with the cri­sis of wa­ter short­ages glob­ally.

This ini­tial mini-conference is a pre­cur­sor to a W12 congress in May, also in Cape Town.

Min­is­ter of Hu­man Set­tle­ments, Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Lindiwe Sisulu met with stake­hold­ers be­fore­hand to dis­cuss how they could help the min­istry to se­cure fund­ing to im­ple­ment South Africa’s na­tional wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion mas­ter plan.

In­ter­na­tional fund­ing re­quire­ments hold that this be man­aged by lo­cal banks and in­sur­ers.

Sisulu says a key ob­jec­tive is to struc­ture the depart­ment to make it fit for pur­pose and able to elim­i­nate wastage and any loss due to cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment of re­sources.

Speak­ing at a press brief­ing, civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rev­erend Rachel Noah said cli­mate change should be in­cluded in the na­tional school cur­ricu­lum as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Pro­fes­sor Jenny Day, a fresh­wa­ter ecol­o­gist and chair of Cape Town’s Pro­tected Ar­eas Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, con­curred: “Two use­ful projects to look at go­ing for­ward in­clude im­prov­ing wa­ter lit­er­acy at school level through the cur­ricu­lum, and so­ci­ety via so­cial me­dia and cit­i­zen ac­tion projects – as well as wa­ter gov­er­nance. We need closer ex­am­i­na­tion of the de­ci­sion pro­cesses around who gets what wa­ter, when and how.

“The flow of wa­ter is a right but cur­rently it flows to­wards power, and that needs to change.”

Dr Gregg Brill, deputy di­rec­tor of the Green Econ­omy Pro­gramme within the West­ern Cape depart­ment of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and tourism, said: “Gov­ern­ment, busi­nesses, the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try, so­ci­ety – we all need to work to­gether to em­bed a value sys­tem that drives col­lec­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing based on trust and trans­parency, fair­ness, col­lab­o­ra­tion and in­tegrity,” he said.

“The global wa­ter cri­sis means that we all need to step back and start re­con­sid­er­ing the eco­nomic, so­cial and eco­log­i­cal value of wa­ter.”

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