The drought conditions that we face is not only a KwaZulu-Natal problem but a problem that has seen provinces like Limpopo, North West, Free State and the Northern Cape also being devastated by the worse drought since 1992.
People who live in the big towns and cities tend to only see water in the context of its domestic and recreational use but often fail to note the extreme negative impact of water shortage on plant and animal life, the agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors.
Throughout our province thousands of hectares of fertile, once productive agricultural land is now under threat of becoming barren waste lands. The attendant consequence is that hundreds of people are losing their jobs. In addition the economy of the province is taking strain. Commercial farmers are being forced to hold back on planting new crops even though we are in the season of spring. The productivity of farmers has been affected and this is responsible for the current food price fluctuations. It is important that we revitalise the agricultural sector to ensure that it continues to produce food for general consumption and to contribute significantly to the province's Gross Domestic Product and to create jobs.
I have been informed that the eShowe and Endumeni Farmer’s Association has offered to assist local farmers with water and fodder for their livestock but the KZN Department of Agriculture has not taken up the offer. It is difficult to understand why the Department will not take up such a generous offer when our people are suffering and losing livestock on a daily basis. Farmers often find it difficult to repay loans when crops fail and I want to appeal to MEC Xaba and his Department to co-operate with the Farmer’s Association and bring urgent relief to those areas.
A shortage of clean drinking water also has serious health implications. People forced to use water from rives and stagnant ponds run the risk of contracting infections that can be life-threating.
Madame Speaker, the report from the NCOP Week that took place in July this year and tabled in this House highlighted drought as one of the most serious challenges. In many areas people now are forced to depend on tanked water being delivered by municipalities and this supply is often erratic and unreliable.
In his State of the Province Address in February this year Premier Mchunu stated that the percentage of households where the supply of 75 litres of water per person per day was secured declined from 86% to 85% from 2010 to 2014. He also stated that the Spring Grove Dam will provide an additional system yield of 60 million cubic meters per annum, the raising of the Hazelmere Dam scheduled for completion by the end of 2016 will provide additional 20 cubic meters of water per annum, Phase 1 of the Smithfield Dam on the uMkhomazi River, which is a longer term solution will yield 250 cubic meters of water per annum at a projected cost of R14 billion and the Lower uThukela Regional Bulk Scheme will provide an additional 40 million cubic meters per annum.
But the Premier failed to tell us where he will get this additional millions of cubic meters of water from. Unless he is now a sangoma with powers to predict how much rainfall we will receive in these areas, he cannot guarantee the additional water supply.
Madame Speaker, I am reminded of an advert on television where it is stated that the next world war will not be fought over resources such as oil, gold or territory, but over water. It is frightening that this natural resource that we have taken for granted since time immemorial could be the cause of a global conflict.
With such a serious prospect on the horizon, Inkatha Freedom Party President Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP in a recent press statement said:
“At a time when drought is taking its toll on farmers and rural communities, Government must step up and provide assistance. This cannot be as slow, muddled and delayed like Government’s approach to land restitution has been, since 1998, but must be swift and fair”.
As a feasible and attainable solution, the IFP calls on this government to prioritise the desalination of seawater into drinking-quality tap water.
There is an urgent need to prioritise this matter as the situation in many areas remains critical. We are not against the infrastructure development and maintenance of existing infrastructure but the shortage of water is a matter of life and death. People can tolerate slow development of infrastructure but they cannot survive without water. We have seen thousands of animals die and crops being lost over the past few months due to the drought.
The real solution is for government to fast track plans to get the desalination plants operational as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest that it will take about ten years for such plants to be in place. This is far too long as climate change is having a devastating impact on the environment and costing lives across the globe. It is encouraging that the feasibility studies have commenced off our shores. We must look to countries like the United Kingdom, China, the United States and the United Arab Emirates where desalination plants are being used to good effect in providing tap water to their respective citizens.
In July this year Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane led a government delegation inspecting the affected areas and she agrees that sea water desalination is a way to go.
We further call for the potential of the Jozini Dam and the Inanda Dam to be fully utilised in supplying water to our people. People should not suffer while we have huge dams in this province which are not useful to the communities around them. We need answers as to why the millions of litres of water in the Jozini Dam are not being used to benefit the people in the Umkhanyakude District and surrounding areas.
In June this year MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Hon Dube-Ncube warned that the province was suffering water shortages. She stated that the Ethekwini Municipality, Stanger, Ballito, Ndwedwe, Richards Bay, uMfolozi and Mtubatuba will be most affected. But she was not telling the whole story as there are many other areas across KwaZulu-Natal that are being devastated by the drought conditions. The Ugu District, Sisonke District and inland areas like Dannhauser, Ladysmith, huge parts of rural Zululand and many other areas are feeling the impact.
The IFP calls on the MEC of Cogta to declare the uThukela area as a drought disaster area since water tankers are now being escorted by the police after some community members are reported to be hijacking water tankers.
We are aware that the province has received R352 million as relief aid to address water shortage. This House needs to be informed as to how this money is being used and which communities are benefitting from this relief aid.
Contact: Mr Blessed Gwala, IFP Leader in the KZN Legislature, 078 290 5842