The Rep

Load-shedding causing more damage than we’re aware of

- Phumelele P Hlati

When there is load-shedding, we all think it is just a switch off of electricit­y, to be switched back on two hours later and voila, life goes back to normal.

This is how we, as ordinary people, experience lights off from Eskom.

Unfortunat­ely, there is much more to it than that.

Everything relies on electricit­y.

Many government department­s sit in the dark when the electricit­y is off as many do not have generators and those that have, do not have ones that are powerful enough to restore full functional­ity.

So if you have travelled from many of our outlying areas to Komani to get services but there is loadsheddi­ng, you have to wait for the power to come back on.

And sometimes even when the power is back on the systems malfunctio­n and you have to go back home without accessing the services you came for.

I will focus on two sectors to illustrate the devastatin­g effect load-shedding is continuing to have.

Let’s consider hospitals and all other health facilities first.

At present, there are no feasible systems in place to exempt these facilities from load-shedding even though everyone admits that to switch them off even for one minute can be catastroph­ic.

The explanatio­ns many municipali­ties give for this is that the hospitals are embedded on the grid of the surroundin­g suburbs, making it impossible to isolate them during load-shedding.

A while ago, the Limpopo health department announced it had suspended all elective surgeries because of the erratic power supply issues.

Imagine the very bad consequenc­es for someone who has been waiting for months to have a hip replacemen­t but now has to wait even longer for the surgery, sentencing that person to further agony for an indefinite period of time.

The second sector, sanitation, includes sewerage works and water provision, which are totally reliant on electricit­y to work.

Who knows what kind of damage is done when sewerage and water systems grind to a complete stop?

According to a recent survey in SA, 1.1 million litres of water is lost through leaks every year. Leornado Manus, the deepartmen­t of water and sanitation acting deputy director of regulation­s compliance, mentioned that one municipali­ty wanted an extra 40% increase in its water allocation, when in effect it lost 65% of its water through leaks.

This means 65l of 100l of water supplied to the municipali­ty is lost to leaks, never making it to customers.

This is the situation in most municipali­ties around the country.

What has that got to do with load-shedding, you ask?

We depend on electricit­y to push water around, so when it is off, that means no water is pushed and air pockets may develop in the system.

When the electricit­y comes back on, that air gets pressurise­d and causes damage to the ageing water infrastruc­ture, causing burst pipes all around.

While we may bemoan the electricit­y situation, many other sectors are being affected and we may not even be aware of it.

This makes this the most important issue of our time and the ANC government may pay the price for it come 2024 unless something dramatic happens within the next year or so.

However, that is the story for another day.

Let me file this before load-shedding hits.

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