The extreme parameters of climate change are being extended around the world. The City of Cape Town has been caught off guard and is set to run out of water within the next two months. In the past years the rains would arrive just in time, but now they stay away. Despite an extensive drive by the City Council to reduce water consumption, the City finds itself staring the down the barrel of the inevitable – NO WATER AT ALL.
Yet as the ground zero date is brought forward, one gets the distinct impression that the City Planners do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. The most recent action by the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, indicates a mayor in sense disarray. On the one hand she is trying to recoup lost income from reduced water consumption by implementing a R150 a month levy. On the other hand, she has announce that the City will be moving towards Level 6B water restrictions, which sets a new target of 50litres of water per person per day. Neither of the two initiatives is going to hold water. It is too late.
While the City communicates that it fully understands the risks and has set water resilience as its top priority, why was water production and sourcing not part of the mix all along? Drilling for aquifers on the Cape Flats only started this week while the roll out of desalination containerise systems is yet to begin. Water reclamation initiatives have barely started at a number of water treatment works. What about the necessary piping and pumping infrastructure to get the water to storage for distribution?
Surely the focus should now also shift to mitigating the risk of the impending fall out. The negative economic impact speaks for itself. The everyday life around a ground zero situation can create scary human behavior and have serious health implications. It is a time for clear thinking and planning for the worst possible scenario. All emergency and health services need to be mobilized and ready. Engaging with organizations like UN Disaster Management and other specialist disaster management organisations must be a priority. The military can offer much relief while government and other provinces need to be engaged for assistance. Yet is this being done?
One gets the sense that the leadership in Cape Town has been in a state of ‘relaxed avoidance’ when it comes to climate change – like ‘it is not going to happen to us’ and, ‘we have it under control’…..yeah right! It is ignorance on a grand scale and they have let their people down. Will they again fail their people in terms of disaster management?
Author: Bryan Groenendaal