KZN in drought crisis

2015-02-04 00:00

OVER 80% of boreholes in KwaZulu-Natal have dried up, rivers are at a trickle if flowing at all, dam levels are dropping rapidly, and crop and livestock are threatened.

In addition, the provincial government only has about half the money it will need to address the situation.

This was the dire situation painted by the KZN government yesterday as the province’s water resources quickly evaporate into the air.

A detailed confidential report titled Drought Recovery Plan (DRP) 2015, signed by the Department of Co-operative Governance of Traditional Affairs (Cogta) administrative heads and seen by The Witness, estimates that R670 million will be needed to alleviate the dire situation; however, little more than half of that has been raised.

The department — which heads the KZN disaster relief programme — admitted to the media that nine district municipalities have already been declared “disaster areas” by the provincial cabinet, with stringent water restrictions either operational or coming into force.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube steered clear of blaming the province’s water infrastructure and instead said people should look towards “heaven”.

“Water losses have decreased hugely over the last few years. Yes there are issues of ageing infrastructure, but the situation we are in is not because of infrastructure; it is about water not coming from heaven,” she said.

Her department’s report revealed that nine districts — uMkhanyakude, Ilembe, uThukela, uThungulu, Ugu, uMzinyathi, Harry Gwala, uMgungundlovu and Zululand — required a combined R388 million, the agricultural sector R36 million and KZN Cane Growers Association (CGA) R250 million in drought relief.

“With climate change persisting, it is acutely evident that the province will also in [the] future experience some similar or worse droughts. Unfortunately, the province is not currently prepared for the drought hazards and thus the need to develop a drought preparedness plan to be able to deal with any future similar situations,” said the report.

However, only R352 million has been allocated to the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) through the Department of Water and Sanitation, with agriculture receiving no relief and the cane growers being asked to break down their requirements per district. Some municipalities were allocated the amounts requested, but many received substantially less than required.

“Cogta through the PDMC is also working with the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) to mobilise the balance of R337 926 200 still to be funded through the disaster management process by National Treasury respectively,” said the report.

Cogta has put the preliminary assessment of damages to the province, especially livestock and crops, at R400 million.

uMkhanyakude, which includes areas such as iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, received the lion’s share of the disaster funds — totalling R91 million.

In uMgungundlovu, which has been allocated R25 million, R15 million has been set aside for the widening of the Appelsbosch Dam. A further R10 million was allocated from the NDMC to Harry Gwala District, where farms were ravaged by runaway fires last year.

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