20 water trucks handed over to drought-stricken Eastern Cape

Human settlements, water & sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: Trevor Samson

Drought-stricken municipalities in the Eastern Cape breathed a sigh of relief on Friday morning when human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu handed over 20 water trucks to the Amatola Water board.

The trucks, worth more than R30m, will serve a number of municipalities, including the Makana municipality, which has recently implemented water restrictions after a mechanical failure at the James Kleynhans water treatment works which supplies the east side of the city, leaving residents without water for three weeks.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has been urged to declare a provincial drought disaster.

The call coincides with new evidence from the Gamtoos Irrigation Board that farmers reliant on the Kouga Dam — which is at 6.4% capacity — are facing a catastrophe.

Handing over the trucks, Sisulu called on residents to work with municipalities and not waste water.

“I know a number of municipalities have been complaining about water. Even yesterday I received a call from the ANC deputy secretary and she told me the Eastern Cape doesn’t have water. I told her I’m already in the province to assist,” Sisulu said.

Makana mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa voiced his happiness about the trucks, saying they will play a major role in ensuring that people in Makhanda receive services.

The DA’s Retief Odendaal said on Thursday that almost two million Eastern Cape residents were facing disaster because of the lack of water.

During the state of the province address earlier this month, Mabuyane acknowledged the water situation was serious, and that several projects were being undertaken to address the matter. These included nine bulk water infrastructure projects, valued at R4.9bn, which were being implemented and which would end water scarcity in areas like Mbhashe.

The handover also happens as Gqeberha is suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. Its main dams have fallen below the 10% level in the past two to three months.

According to the Gqeberha office of the SA Weather Service, if total dam levels in the Algoa system continue to drop at a rate of 0.6 percentage points a week, as they did between February 22 and March 1, they will fall collectively below the 10% level as early as May 17.

During her visit, Sisulu also visited the Duncan Village priority project in East London to assess progress on this project aimed at changing the face of this historically significant informal settlement in Mdantsane.

The first phase of the project is expected to accommodate 2,500 residents.

“This presidential priority project has a great significance in East London, where over 20,000 of its households currently reside in informal dwellings. It is therefore an urgent priority to create sustainable and habitable human settlements for this community,” Sisulu said.

In January 2020, national and provincial human settlements departments and the Buffalo City metro signed a memorandum of understanding to build temporary housing for residents of Duncan Village while building permanent homes for them.

Sisulu said to date 119 units have been completed and are ready to be handed over to the beneficiaries while another 166 units are still waiting for services such as water and electricity.

“These structures will serve as a temporary measure while construction of permanent housing is under way in Reeston and other areas.”

According to BusinessLIVE, the metro’s dams are fast approaching the point where further extraction will be impossible.

One of the province’s largest dams, Kouga, has already dropped to a record low of just 6.33% and is in danger of running dry for the first time. If it does, it will be game over for many farmers in the Gamtoos River Valley.

According to BusinessLIVE, the metro has switched most of its supply to the Gariep catchment system. The Gariep Dam lies on the Orange River in the Free State, on the border with the Eastern Cape. It feeds water to the metro via the 82.8km Orange-Fish irrigation tunnel. According to the metro, the Gariep Dam is now supplying 180Ml of water a day, satisfying 60% of Gqeberha’s water needs.

by Mpumzi Zuzile

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