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Steenhuisen slams water department as dams supplying Nelson Mandela Bay drop to 11%

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Steenhuisen slams water department as dams supplying Nelson Mandela Bay drop to 11%

DA leader John Steenhuisen
Photo by Creamer Media
DA leader John Steenhuisen

8th June 2021

By: News24Wire

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Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has ripped into the department of water and sanitation, demanding answers on how it plans to keep the taps running in the Eastern Cape amid declining dam levels.

In a whirlwind oversight visit to Kouga Dam in the Kouga Local municipality on Monday, Steenhuisen said he would write to Minister of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu to ask her how she plans to help farmers and residents devastated by a crippling drought in and around Nelson Mandela Bay region.

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Steenhuisen's comments came as the four dams supplying Nelson Mandela Bay reached a combined capacity of 11.81%.

The Kouga Dam is sitting at 4.17% and was expected to soon reach a point where water can no longer be extracted.

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The Churchill Dam level is 22.19%, while the Impofu Dam has 15.08%, and Groendal dam is at 26.47%.

When the Kouga Dam dries up, the Kouga municipality will lose its primary water supply, while Kwa Nobuhle township in Nelson Mandela Bay will have no water at all.

This means farmers in the Gamtoos Valley will no longer be able to water their citrus orchards, which could have a long-term catastrophic impact on the region.

"We have a huge problem because there is no national water plan, the national government has seen this problem coming down the track for the last two decades, it did not put in place mitigation measures to ensure we didn't sit in a situation we do now, we are in the midst of a disaster," Steenhuisen stressed.

"I will be going back to Parliament to ask the national minister of water affairs, what she intends to do, who is she going to send here and what mitigation measures are going to be provided here," said Steenhuisen.

Using the drought to garner support for his party, Steenhuisen launch the DA's national roadshow in the run-up to the local government elections in the Eastern Cape.

On 18 May, the Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape launched a drought petition to force the provincial government to declare the province a disaster area and to lobby for additional relief funding from the national government.

Farmers in the Eastern Cape told News24 that they have depleted their savings and face financial ruin because they have been feeding their livestock for extended periods.

Department of water and sanitation spokesperson Mphumzi Zuzile dismissed Steenhuisen's allegations that the department had no plan to mitigate the situation.

He revealed that while the department has committed 100 water tanks and 10 road tankers for emergency measures, this process was facing delays.

Zuzile said the drought has impacted the Nelson Mandela Bay metro for four consecutive years and that the city has been on domestic water restrictions for the past five years.

He added that the water scarcity in Nelson Mandela Bay and other parts of the Eastern Cape was caused by drought as it had not rained for a very long period.

He said it was wrong for the DA to be blaming the government for a drought.

Zuzile said Nelson Mandela Bay residents also need to change behaviour and comply with water restrictions in the area.

As one of the desperate measures to mitigate the situation, in February the Nelson Mandela metro announced further water restrictions.

The municipality said it will fit all household taps with flow meter restriction devices that will limit the use of water to 500 litres a day of 15 000 kilolitres per month per house.

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