Western Cape declared a disaster area

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cape Town – Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has officially declared the province a disaster area in response to the most crippling drought to hit the province in over a century.

Dam levels in the Cape are at a worrying level of 20.7%, which is 0.7% down from a week ago. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, dam levels are effectively at 10.7%. 

The Premier said the declaration, which she signed during a Cabinet meeting last week, will be formally gazetted during the course of the week.

“The disaster declaration will accelerate the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre’s Project ‘Avoiding Day Zero’, the Province’s strategy to ensure that taps do not run dry,” Premier Zille stressed.

As it stands, the disaster will be classified for a three month period which can be extended, if the need arises.

The provincial government said during such a classification, the Disaster Management Act empowers the provincial government to protect key frontline service delivery points by reprioritising funding.

She said the project ‘Avoiding Day Zero’, led by the Western Cape’s Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC), has three main focus areas which includes, demand management, winter conservation and groundwater management.

According to the Premier, government will prioritise interventions based on the provincial Drought Risk Register.

“Provincial Disaster Management will focus on the most critical aspects of that list.

“Funding will be reprioritised provincially and, should further assistance be needed, the province will approach National Treasury and the National Department of Water and Sanitation,” the Premier added.

While assuring the public that the declaration is no cause to panic, but merely enhances control by affording the Province additional powers of intervention, Premier Zille urged all residents to continue saving water and to adhere to restrictions imposed by affected municipalities.

“While it remains a cause for concern, we believe the current drought is an opportunity to innovate and act responsibly in the way we make use of our water resources,” she added.

Stressing the severity of the current water situation, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell said the Provincial Disaster Management team’s most immediate interventions, in the coming days will be the drilling of boreholes at hospitals, starting in the metro, followed by schools in high-risk water scarce areas.

“Other steps will include expediting the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for testing a mobile desalination plant using existing water inlet flows used for the reactors at the Koeberg site; drilling into the Table mountain aquifer; appointing groundwater specialists in each district and assessing the state of water restrictions in the respective municipalities,” he said.

Bredell added that during the current declaration period, a provincial inter-ministerial committee – which he will chair – will meet regularly to assess immediate threats and recommend interventions.

“The declaration will enable all three spheres of government to work together to avoid day zero,” he stressed.

In the last year, at least R27 million had been re-prioritised for interventions in areas which were declared local disasters.  

In January 2016, parts of the West Coast and Central Karoo were declared agricultural drought disaster areas.

Hydrological disasters were declared in Prince Albert, Witzenberg and Oudtshoorn. Through the interventions, all of these localities are no longer deemed as disaster areas. - TLM