President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that unless drastic measures are taken, water insecurity will become the biggest developmental and economic challenge facing South Africa – dwarfing the country’s current energy challenges.
Water and its scarcity is the focus of Ramaphosa’s Letter from the President’s Desk today in which he urges domestic users, municipalities and industry to use water wisely – saying water conservation is everyone’s responsibility.
The letter follows Ramaphosa’s visit to the Waterberg District in Limpopo last week where he says locals raised access to water as a challenge in sustaining their lives, farming, driving business and supplying the world’s fourth largest coal-fired power station located in the area, the Medupi power station.
The combination of a decade-long drought in the world’s 30th driest country together with the worsening effects of climate change have negatively affected farming in Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces as well as the Free State and Mpumalanga.
Ramaphosa says the country will be faced with social arrest unless access to water for communities is improved, water infrastructure upgraded and water managed more carefully. He said that despite water security being integral to people’s well-being he said it is also critical to accelerating industrialisation and expanding mining and agriculture.
Ramaphosa says governnment interventions include efforts at reducing the waiting time for water licenses, drought relief measures such as emergency borehole drilling and putting water tankers in affected areas and supporting farmers to buy fodder and dam destilting. In the long term the President says much more funding will be needed to upgrade water infrastructure.