Use new technology to address the water crises in SA

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The Gauteng government has come out with a six-point plan to tackle the water crisis. File photo: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Cape Town experienced water shortages in September 2018; the City was forced to introduce measures which would force the residents to use certain litres of water per day. Most cities around the world are experiencing migration from rural to urban areas, which would obviously have dire consequences in service delivery by government.

There are multifaceted factors contributing to the water crises in South Africa. Population growth and poor planning contributes to the water shortages. Climate change continues to be responsible for the drought that we are experiencing around the country. Leaks in our piping system are responsible for the waste of millions of litres which people need for survival. The country is only making use of 15 to 20% of the groundwater; we can increase this figure to ensure that many people are able to access water from their taps.

Israel is in the dessert and had struggled in the past to provide water for everyone. That struggle inspired the Israel government to develop measures in producing more clean water for its people. Israel developed advanced technology, desalination and wastewater plants. The Israelis have invested lot money into new technology into accessing water. They have actually used the Mediterranean effectively to ensure that their taps do not run dry.

South Africa should be open to solutions brought by the Israelis to access water through innovative, new technologies. We can also introduce desalination to increase the access of water especially to those who resides in the rural areas.

We have been sending young people to Cuba to be trained as medical officers; we can send others to be equipped with technological skills in Israel so that they are able to help the country by importing the expertise rather than procuring a foreign company.

In 2018, we saw the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) being deployed to the country’s biggest dam, Vaal River. We were warned by Rand Water not to drink water from the Vaal River as it may be contaminated. The government has failed dismally to protect one of the biggest country’s dams. We have not built other dams to conserve water; our government have not done enough to ensure that water crises become a thing of the past for us.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a Chapter 9 Institution, has made a recommendation that the City of Tshwane provide clean, drinkable water to the residents of Hammanskraal. The Commission has made similar recommendations in many municipalities in the North West province; many villages across that province have no water.

We are told by our government that the country will be facing a deficit of 3 000 litres of water per year by 2030. This will obviously scare away the potential investors. The water crises will obviously impact on the businesses, economy, food security, migration and unemployment.

Water has been a challenge for many young black farmers; they largely depend on the torrential rains for water as well as groundwater is not enough. This means that many people are reluctant to join the farming industry while others lose money due to drought which results in lack of water.

If Israel can make use of Mediterranean Sea to desalinate water, why can’t South Africa do the same with its ocean? It is possible to demolish all the pit toilets in the country and replace them with innovative sanitised toilets which will enhance the dignity of our poor people.

We have to build more water reservoirs, build more dams, bore groundwater and use advanced technologies to preserve and conserve water for our people. As the population increasingly grows, we have to effectively plan for our future. Water should not be a luxury; every person should be able to access water easily and cheaply.

It is unimaginable to think that there are many people who are still sharing water with animals. People fetch water from the open rivers at their local forests, the same water used by wild and domestic animals. People still go to the dams and wash their clothes next to the river because they don’t have access to water in their homes.

The authorities like Rand Water or SAHRC warn us at times about consuming infectious water. Our people also know that the water is not clean nonetheless there is absolutely nothing that one can do because that is the only water available at that time.

We should depoliticise the water issue and be open to any discussion by anyone who is willing to offer a permanent solution to our problem. Why should we bar Israel from helping us if they are claiming to have a solution to our problem as they have stated sometime last year when the City of Cape Town faced “Day Zero”? We have to be solution-oriented and stop explaining the problem we know exists away.

It is true that out country has some diplomatic tensions with Israel, which are political and can be solved at that level. We cannot however reject anything coming from Israel while our people are suffering especially when the solution is readily available.

Our politicians should do away with their personal egos; they should not fight their own cheap political battles at the expense of our people. The new International Relations minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, will hopefully do better than her predecessor in ensuring that our foreign policy prioritises the interests of South Africa and her people.

Our country continues to trade with Zimbabwe despite the humanitarian crises and political tensions that have existed for more than two decades now. We are working with Russia despite the draconian measures applied to Vladimir Putin’s rivals. There is an outcry in China of people calling for democracy, and we have not been interfering. One would ask what is so special about the Israel’s case?

Western countries continue to harass Tehran (Iran) in the Gulf, we have not said much about such a conduct. We should continuing Mandela legacy and preach peace across the globe.

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a political commentator.