Speeches

Addressing Disasters and Water Shortage in the Western Cape

8 April 2010

Minister Sonjica, Programme Director, Premier Zille, Provincial Ministers, Executive Mayors, Councillors, officials from all spheres of government, ladies and gentlemen and all protocol observed:

The Western Cape Province is prone to extreme weather patterns and it seems that the Southern Cape region suffers the brunt of these calamities. This region had four declared disasters in terms of the Disaster Management Act, Act 57 of 2002 - severe floods in July/ August 2006, Haarlem hail disaster (November 2006), floods in November 2007 and the recent drought disaster declaration in November 2009. These declared disasters do not even include the devastating fires, communicable diseases and xenophobic violence which resulted in displaced foreign nationals. The Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) is currently monitoring the spending of approximately R1.5 billion allocated emergency funds since 2006 of which a large amount is for disaster recovery specifically in the Eden District.

The recent drought experienced in the Eden taught us the importance of constant dialogue and intergovernmental cooperation. The necessity of early warnings, risk reduction planning and preparedness is imperative given the fact that it alleviates the impact of major incidents/ disasters.

But, with any disaster comes opportunities. It is in this regard that legal opinion was sought to implement emergency/ punitive tariffs and the need to include these emergency water tariff provisions in tariff polices. This was also an opportunity to address the fact that most municipalities did not have drought management policies - which after this incident, became a prerequisite for all municipalities.

As some may recall, Sedgefield ran out of water in January 2009, when the primary water source, the Karatara River ran dry. As an emergency intervention, water was trucked in by the district, with the assistance of the Department of Transport and Public Works and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The municipality then installed an emergency pipeline from the Hoogekraal River to feed in the existing water system. As we are all aware, this problem extended to Knysna, George, Bitou and Mossel Bay as the result of low rainfall and the persisting drought conditions in the Eden and Central Karoo Districts.

To mitigate the situation, my office together with the advice of the PDMC initiated the following successful interventions to:

  • Cut consumption by 30%
  • Implement emergency
  • Monitor consumers with high consumption and take appropriate steps to limit their water use
  • Intensify public awareness campaigns
  • Re-prioritise budgets to address the crisis
  • Fast track implementation of emergency projects

As Minister for, among others, Local Government and Disaster Management, I would like to applaud municipalities and departments for the significant way in which the current drought is managed. I am proud of the excellent cooperation from municipalities, departments and most importantly the broader public to manage and save water, a very scarce resource in our country.

Minister Sonjica and Premier Zille, I started my recent budget speech tabled on 24 March 2010 with the question whether our children will have clean water in the future and more importantly whether they would have any water in future.

Voorts het ek ook in my toespraak gesê: "Die Eden distriksmunisipaliteit beleef tans die ergste droogte die afgelope 132 jaar. My provinsiale rampbestuur-sentrum het baie nou saamgewerk met die munisipaliteite van Mosselbaai, George, Knysna en Bitou om baie effektief met dié droogte om te gaan. Ek is dankbaar om te kan sê dat ons nie net met die huidige krisis bemoeienis maak nie, maar ons is ook besig om te verseker dat ons kinders van die Tuinroete genoeg water sal hê vir die toekoms."

My rampbestuurspan het in samewerking met die nasionale tesourie die bedrag van R195 miljoen byeen gebring vir droogtehulp. Dié fondse word gebruik om pioniersprojekte te implementeer. Knysna het reeds sy eerste ontsoutingsaanleg gebou op Sedgefield en verdere sulke aanlegte sal gebou word op Knysna self, asook op Bitou. Die kusmunisipaliteite implementeer ook waterherwinnings-projekte en 20% van hul water sal vanaf hierdie projekte afkomstig wees. Belangriker nog, die bewustheidmakings-veldtogte het bygedra tot die vermindering in watergebruik. In Mosselbaai is 49% minder water gebruik en in George was die syfer 43%. Ons sal voortgaan om hierdie munisipaliteite by te staan terwyl hulle hul noodprojekte tydens 2010/2011 implementeer. Vergun my asb. weer die geleentheid om almal te bedank vir hul bydraes om water te bespaar.

Die konstruksie van die ontsoutings-eenheid het 78 dae geduur en die fondse is beskikbaar gestel deur MIG (Munisipale Infrastruktuur Toekenning) en die munisipaliteit. Die ander twee plekke in Afrika waar daar ook sulke ontsoutingsaanlegte is, is Boesmansnek in KwaZulu-Natal en Walvisbaai in Namibië. Tydens die konstruksie is daar ook heelwat werksgeleenthede geskep. Die Sedgefield-gemeenskap is deurentyd gekonsulteer en hulle was ook baie tegemoetkomend. Afhangende van hoe die aanleg bestuur word, is die verwagte leeftyd tussen 25 en 50 jaar. Dit verskaf water aan ongeveer 11 000 huishoudings. Hoe werk die aanleg? Dit prosesseer sout -of seewater en verander dit na gesonde drinkwater. Ons sal netnou aan u wys hoe ons van dié water drink.

Ladies and gentlemen, the plant uses reverse osmosis, which in turn requires intense bursts of energy in quick succession. This means a lot of electricity is needed to desalinate the seawater. However, the design has also addressed this issue by incorporating an energy recovery unit which in effect uses the same energy twice - saving up to 40% of the power.

We have learned a lot from the above-mentioned experience and will share it with other municipalities. Furthermore, we are asking municipalities in the Western Cape to ensure that their tariff policies include emergency tariffs, and we are asking every one of them to develop a drought management plan.

The key to managing disasters is to plan for them - to identify the risks, address them and be prepared. We will be helping disaster managers and Integrated Development Planning (IDP) managers in all municipalities to prepare Disaster Management Plans as part of their IDP's between April and June, and we will be providing more intensive disaster planning support to 12 municipalities throughout the year.

I am proud today to be able to bear witness to the work of this desalination plant here in Sedgefield. I want to congratulate the municipality and all other municipalities and departments such as Treasury, Water Affairs, Local Government, Environmental Affairs, as well as state owned enterprises and community members for making this day a reality. I am indeed proud that other municipalities within the province and even industries can learn from Knysna without having to learn from the international arena.

I am impressed and pleased with the way in which disasters are managed in this region and I want to applaud the National and Provincial Disaster Management Centres, the Eden District Disaster Management Centre and the municipal engineers for working in a coordinated way with all departments to find and implement the best engineering solutions to the challenges, taking into account the risks and vulnerabilities. Municipalities across the country can learn from us.

Dames en here, ek bedank graag die munisipaliteit Knysna vir die manier hoe hulle die waterkrisis hanteer het, asook die wonderlike intervensies wat geïmplementeer is om watersekuriteit te verseker, sowel as die daarstelling van die ontsoutingsaanleg. Vandag vier ons hierdie briljante innoverende gedagtes, aksies en planne. Die hele provinsiale plaaslike regering verwelkom hierdie inisiatief wat ons almal trots maak. Ons is een provinsie en ons is net so bly soos julle dat julle planne tot dusver goed gewerk het.

I would like to encourage municipalities to plan and mitigate their risks and vulnerabilities in order to lessen the impact of disasters and major events. Let us join hands in ensuring that our communities and municipal infrastructures which are most vulnerable to disasters, are more resilient to any future disaster or significant incidents. We need to change our lives, lifestyles and livelihoods to ensure water security for our children and the future generations. The implementation of the Sedgefield desalination plant is indeed a step in the right direction, as competition for scarce resources like water in future years might become one of the significant challenges faced by local government.

As Minister I am extremely pleased and proud of this Sedgefield desalination plant. Usually we read in newspapers about cities which take the lead in innovation and technology, but today I am proud of this small town which is a leading example of water security for future demands and needs. I salute you!

Thank you.