Recurrence of El Nino drought conditions likely

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pretoria – The South African Weather Service says the next summer season has increased the likelihood for the development of El Nino conditions, which are often associated with drought and water scarcity - as seen recently in South Africa.

This was revealed by the SAWS’s Chief Forecaster, Dr Eugene Poolman, during his presentation to the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum (NDMAF) in Centurion on Wednesday.

NDMAF is established by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Des Van Rooyen, according to the Disaster Management Act No. 57 of 2002. Its primary purpose is to provide a mechanism for role players to consult one another and to coordinate their actions on disaster related matters.

The forum was attended by the representatives from national government departments, provincial disaster management heads and other stakeholders, including Eskom and the South African Bureau of Standards.

Dr Poolman said although most parts of South Africa recently experienced above normal rainfall, SAWS's forecasting showed likelihood of the El Niño - Southern Oscillation phenomenon making a comeback in a few months time.

“Forecasting systems currently indicate an increased likelihood of an El Niño phase to develop towards the spring season. The likelihood has increased from previous assessments and as we near the winter period, these forecasts improve in reliability.

“At this stage it is still too early to predict its impact on the next summer season over Southern Africa,” said Dr Poolman who also confirmed that SAWS will continue monitoring the development of these conditions and  provide regular updates.

The Head of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), who also chairs the Forum, Dr Mmaphaka Tau, echoed Dr Poolman's sentiments: “We are not yet out of the woods. It is absolutely necessary that we continue applying risk reduction, mitigation planning and water conservation interventions.”

Dr Tau implored provincial disaster management heads to commit to a vigorous approach to Disaster Risk Reduction Planning that puts communities at the centre.

“We need to translate our plans into meaningful interventions that have a lasting impact on the people of South Africa. It's important that we take our work seriously, remain accountable and put people first,” Dr Tau told the Forum.

The gathering was also updated on the coordination of recent drought mitigation plans led by the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) through the National Joint Drought Coordinating Committee (NJDCC), facilitated by the NDMC.

The sectors that were most affected by the drought included Agriculture and Water, and the intervention was broken into the following phases:

Phase 1:

  • Reprioritisation of resources from existing programmes in all Government Spheres Contributions by Private Sector and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
  • Technical Support
  • Water Use Management and Conservation Measures
  • Monitoring of conditions on the ground

Phase 2:

  • Financial contribution from Disaster Grants through DCoG
  • Technical Support
  • Contribution by Private Sector
  • Water Use Management and Conservation measures
  • Monitoring of conditions on the ground
  • DCoG facilitated the allocation of funding for drought intervention measures through the Unforeseen and Unavoidable (U&U) budget process due to limited funding within the Disaster Grants.

By September 2016, the National Treasury approved the following financial allocations:

  • An amount of R212 million for the provision of livestock feed within Agriculture sector
  • An amount of R341 million for the water sector for a mobile desalination plant in KwaZulu-Natal and water tankering in other affected provinces.

The Forum is due to sit again on Thursday, 11 May 2017. –


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