Help conserve water

2015-11-18 06:00
Unathi Sonwabile Henama

Unathi Sonwabile Henama

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THE oven is put on grill and the door has been opened. The heat wave over South Africa has raised temperatures, and it is clear climate change is occurring in our lifetime. At the same time, South Africa is experiencing one of the longest droughts, described as the worst in 20 years.

South Africa is one of the driest countries in the world. Growing up, we would marvel at hearing that elders in their rural hinterlands had occasionally congregated to pray for rain. And if this had brought rain, let’s pray.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is imperative for the continued supply of water to South Africa and for the economic fortunes of our country. It is for this reason that the South African government is always supportive of peace and tranquillity in Lesotho, as it is in other countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as regional instability is the enemy of poverty alleviation and economic prosperity.

When South Africa experienced its first schedule of loadshedding, former CEO of Anglo American, Cynthia Carol, was one of the first to indicate that when a country experiences a crisis, finger-pointing must be the least of our concerns, but that we should focus on finding common solutions.

This is sowing season for wedge-drivers who will use any opportunity to divide society; we must be careful of gaining political mileage at the expense of the South African collective. It is too early to predict that the drought will lead to food insecurity; however, it can be expected that the drought will lead to food price increases as the input costs for food production will rise.

Higher food prices usually lead to inflationary pressures as the South African Reserve Bank has to raise interest rates to protect the value of the rand. Inflation remains the biggest enemy of poverty alleviation and wealth creation, as it leads to loss of a currency’s value and, therefore, its buying power.

The Free State is the food basket of the country, and in the absence of rain it might lead to a reduction in maize yields, with maize being the staple food in South Africa. There are already regions in the country that have been declared disaster areas.

I recall the early 1990s when South Africa experienced a drought: yellow maize was imported and consumed. We must be open to the idea of consuming yellow maize again.

This is not the time for finger-pointing. All partners must work with government in finding a solution to the water crisis. Consumers must do their part by paying for their municipal services. Paying for municipal services is the most basic form of patriotism that is expected from each citizen.

Residents must take it upon themselves to report acts of water wastage so that water loss can be addressed. Social media is a powerful medium by which the e-government can improve its communication with citizens, who in turn must work with local government in reducing their water consumption and respect water restrictions where they are applied.

Customer tastes are influenced by a consumer culture that exists at any point in time. Think back to the popularity once of the perm haircut, the German cut, Pepe Jeans, Boom Shaka, and silk clothing. I smile as this takes me down memory lane.

The designers of buildings and private dwellings must find ways of integrating Jojo water tanks into the architecture, so that households can conserve water for consumption. I am of the opinion that this can be good for households, as it is standard practice in rural areas for houses to depend solely on these for consumption.

A new consumer culture linked to the green economy must be created, one that uses solar panels and wind turbines for electricity, boreholes for water and storing water for household use in water tanks. Water tanks must also respond to the aesthetic needs of divergent customer markets.

All of these can help take such households “off the grid”.

At OR Tambo International Airport, Avis car rental uses stored rainwater to wash cars. Finding homegrown solutions to the water crisis needs the attention of the media – the Fourth Estate.

The growth of regional radio stations and newspapers provides a platform for these members of the Fourth Estate to work with academia and other partners to find low-cost solutions to conserve water.

Driving around the townships, it is interesting that RDP areas happen to have more trees than other areas. Trees can provide some relief from the heat through shading; however, we must go further by promoting agricultural cooperatives that will increase the aesthetics of areas by actively promoting the planting of fruit-producing trees that will allow harvest during winter and summer. This would improve residents’ nutrition as well as provide shade.

This would appease the Department of Health, who believes in an integrated approach in addressing health challenges.

  • Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a member of the Black Management Forum (BMF). He writes in his personal capacity.

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