Friday, April 2, 2010

Government failed South Africa's eastern Cape ‘at all levels’ over drought

Patrick Cull in the Weekend Post (South Africa): Effective planning could have averted the crisis brought about by the drought in the Eastern Cape, says DA water and environment spokesman Annette Lovemore. She noted all three tiers of government had failed the province. Municipalities and the provincial administration had no disaster management plan in place, while the central government “has neglected its duty and has not ensured adherence to legislative requirements with respect to proper planning”. “The paltry sum allocated by national government for drought relief highlights their neglect of the Eastern Cape.”

Presenting the DA’s discussion document on the drought, Lovemore said Bhisho had applied for R138-million for drought relief for farmers in March 2008. In October last year, 18 months later, only R20-million had been made available. “The provincial assessment, carried out in August last year, showed R1.2-billion was needed to address all needs arising from the drought. The paltry sum of R68-million was made available.”

Warnings from experts had gone unheeded. “In many cases, studies dating back to at least 2005 showed clearly that water usage patterns were unsustainable. No action was taken by municipalities to develop alternate supplies, or to plan development in a sustainable fashion. In some cases, investigations and feasibility studies have been ongoing for over five years, with no sign of implementation. The threat of climate change now exacerbates the threat and the need for urgency.”

Municipalities had also failed to curb water losses. Infrastructure had not been maintained nor, where necessary, replaced or upgraded. In Mthatha, losses accounted for “more than 70% of the water treated for domestic use”.

In addition, she said: Urbanisation had resulted in municipalities providing additional housing with running water and waterborne sanitation “with little or no investigation of the ability to sustain these services, or of the effect of these services on water supply in the area”....

Composite satellite image of the Cape peninsula in South Africa, NASA

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