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Covid-19 decisions divert focus

Urgent Covid-19 decisions divert the
focus from growing water supply crisis

Gauteng and surrounding regions are stumbling into a slowonset Day Zero due to stalling infrastructure projects

2 0 J U L Y 2 0 2 0 – 1 4 : 2 5 M I K E M U L L E R

Disasters distract people from more important priorities. US president Dwight Eisenhower, 70 years ago, lamented that “what’s urgent is seldom important; what’s important is seldom seen as urgent”.

Globally, governments are now urged to focus on disaster risk reduction rather than acting only when disasters occur. But when disaster strikes long-term priorities invariably go out of the window. That’s why Gauteng and surrounding regions are stumbling into a slow-onset Day Zero water crisis.

The Covid-19 emergency programme to deploy tanks and tankers to places where municipal water supplies have failed is diverting the department of water & sanitation’s top management from their long-term priority of keeping the country water secure. Specifically, Covid-19 is distracting us from the looming threat of an entirely predictable Day Zero drought that could strangle the SA economy.

Implementation of the Polihali Dam, Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water project in Lesotho, is slipping into a further round of delays and cost increases. And every year it is delayed makes it more likely that we will repeat Cape Town’s painful self-inflicted drought disaster.