Drought officially is over and out

A view of Theewaterskloof dam. Image Donwald Pressly

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Zweli Mkhize says that the national state of disaster that was declared on 13 March 2018 has lapsed.

He decided not to renew the state of disaster “due to progress made since the declaration”.

He told the Select Committee on Appropriations in Parliament, Wednesday: “I have decided not to renew the State of the National Drought Disaster when it lapses on 13 June 2018. However, the existing classification of a national disaster remains in force with the implication that the national executive will still be responsible for coordination….on drought and water scarcity. The IMTT will issue regular updates about the developments in this regard,” said Minister Mkhize.

He said that since the declaration of disaster, various interventions were initiated or intensified by the respective spheres of government. These interventions were executed within the prescribed existing legislation and or the respective contingency arrangements developed to deal with the acute phase of the drought.

“The respective spheres of government mobilised and reprioritised resources in their existing allocations, expedited procurement processes and accessed R433.524 million from the respective disaster grants to implement the augmentation and other immediate relief projects,” announced the Ministry.

“Of this amount, R348.836 million was transferred during 2017/18 financial year and R84.678 million will be transferred from the Provincial Disaster Grant during 2018/19 financial year. The implementation of these immediate relief and augmentation projects are ongoing and has evidently already mitigated the immediate impact of the drought.

“During May 2018, the National Joint Drought Coordinating Committee (NJDCC) conducted assessments which showed that the acute phase of the drought in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and some smaller pockets in the country is at its end and is now entering the resilience building phase.

“Subsequently the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has decided to allow the national state of disaster to lapse today, on 13 June 2018.”

The departmennt said the resilience building phase of a drought is currently the key focus of dealing with drought as a concern for adaptation to climate change. This entails, amongst others, improving the identification, funding, coordination and management of resilience building projects aimed at increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability to drought.

To achieve this, the NJDCC will broaden its focus beyond the continual monitoring of resilience building projects to include focussed projects, funded from the allocations of the respective organs of state, in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) aimed at the identification and implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction projects such as:

a) augmenting the water supply to levels where future demand can be met without imposing restrictions;

b) mainstreaming water conservation and demand management within communities to reduce consumption per capita to that of international norms;

c) adapting farming practices aimed at mitigating the effects of drought and increasing the resilience of the farming sector;

d) performing research to find implementable adaptable solutions to increase resilience to drought, e.g. developing alternative resilient crop seeds that are drought tolerant and heat tolerant;

e) re-evaluating and reinforcing drought policies across government by incorporating the lessons learned during the acute phase of the drought.

f) Addressing backlogs and fast tracking the implementation of bulk water projects.

g) Through deployment of existing local government recovery plans, the Back to Basics (B2B) programme and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), strengthen the capacity of municipalities to carry our infrastructure development and maintenance inclusive of operations and maintenance to eliminate water losses.

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