Minister for Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has welcomed innovation by the Climatology Research Unit of the North West University on revamping old weather radar built around the 1970’s into 1980’s.

Although the team of both lecturers and students, who have worked on the revamp of the tool, say it’s not yet at the standard of the radars used by the South African Weather Service, Minister Molewa says in future, the radar through its weather forecast use, will assist government to prepare for disasters like drought and floods.

“The idea was to take the old piece of technology and in the process of getting this thing to work upgrade it with the latest technologies and then in doing so we give students access to this process of capacity building.  And now today we sit with instrument that can give us real time weather information and not quite at the same level as some of the fancy radars that the South African Weather service has,” said the university’s Dr Roelof Burger.

Their project began way back in 2014. Roelof says while it may seem like a complete project now but it has not been an easy journey.

However, how is this instrument known only as the “NWU Lekwena Radar”, going to benefit ordinary community members?

“All these disaster related issues that sometimes befall people unexpected would then be able to be measured, analysed as we link this with the entire country radar system avoiding therefore any impact that could be negative on the lives of the people.  Is about ensuring that our people’s lives are saved, secondly to also help those who are in the food-production farming community and so forth.”

“Over six-million rand has already been spent on the project, and another eight million is needed to get where the researchers want the project to be. Part of the funding comes from the Water Service Commission. The Commission’s CEO Dhesigen Naidoo .

“What we have invested in here and we investing in many more projects is an ability to be able to forecast a lot better.  Can you imagine if we had reliable advance warning around the drought of the last few years in this country would we have a crisis, if we had the information at hand, if we could plan appropriately, we can the contingency measures come into place.”

The Climatology Unit says it will need more partnerships to fully realise the potential of the radar situated at a farm in Potchefstroom. Other role players have also hailed the innovation saying it is exactly what the country needs to solve its own problems.

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