DEVELOPMENT: Our Murky Waters
Recent Western Cape Business News
South Africa has always been a water scarce country and it is now more apparent than ever that we are facing major water problems caused not only by the undeniable natural processes of climate change but also by avoidable and irresponsible human activity. Drastic measures will be necessary if we are to avoid another crisis of Eskom proportions, says the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mr Jeremy Wiley, President of the Chamber, said it was now apparent that the authorities had not grasped the seriousness of the situation and seemed to be more concerned about avoiding embarrassment than taking action to avoid, pollution, health and social problems.
The way in which the CSIR had attempted to suppress Dr Anthony Turton’s scientific paper setting out the extent of the problem and the likely social consequences of a water crisis was cause for grave concern. “Unfortunately for those who seem bent on shooting the messenger, they have succeeded in giving the controversial paper more attention than it would ever have received had it been delivered in the normal way. For this we are grateful.”
He said the Chamber had consistently warned about water problems in the Western Cape and the threat posed to the fruit industry, one of our biggest employers and exporters.
“Our direct appeal to Premier Lynne Brown has resulted in a special allocation of funds to municipalities to overhaul their water treatment works and keep effluent out of the river system. Unfortunately money alone will not do the job for some municipalities have shed essential engineering skills in the name of transformation.”
Mr Wiley said the management of water resources was intimately tied up with agriculture and the emotional land question. “If water resources are mismanaged agriculture will suffer because without water land has very little value. And without good water the new owners of redistributed land are doomed to fail.”
He said it was already apparent that polluted water was causing health problems but it seemed that the authorities did not understand that failure in one area led to other failures and that, in the end, it was the poor that suffered most.
In the Western Cape there were no more suitable sites for dams and future supplies of water would have to come from alternative sources such as deep aquifers, the desalination of sea water and it would be necessary to recycle water for industry.
"All consumers and local authorities should be incentivised to save water and to ensure that water reticulation networks are maintained and the wasteful loss of municipal water through leaks should be severely penalised in terms of current legislation. We should press ahead with these projects because the knowledge and experience we gain will prove to be vital if we are to come to terms with the challenges that await us,” Mr Wiley said.
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