Drought threatens Eastern Cape industry

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 14 February 2011

The Nelson Mandela Bay metro, which is facing a critical water shortage, needs to raise more than R1bn to avert a potential economic disaster after the Treasury “indicated” it would not provide all the funding to alleviate the effects of a prolonged drought.

The drought threatens the government’s automotive production and development plan

Ali Said, the municipality’s infrastructure and engineering director, said last week the Treasury had indicated it would provide only R450m of a requested R1,6bn in aid or about 30% of the emergency funding.

The drought of more than three years threatens billions of rand in investment in the Eastern Cape’s industrial hub, including the government’s priority automotive production and development plan.

Water-intensive industries in the Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch area — including South African Breweries, Coca-Cola Fortune, Clover and Parmalat dairy products, chocolate maker Cadbury, and Sappi pulp and paper — have long reduced their water consumption by 25%. The Coega industrial development zone, Volkswagen SA and General Motors SA, which have between them pumped more than R10bn into the region, are also affected.

The Treasury would not be drawn on how much relief it would provide. “Details of funding allocations will be announced in the budget to be tabled in Parliament by the minister of finance. Until then, we have no comment,” said Jabulani Sikhakhane, chief director of communications.

Angus Clark, strategic resources task force chairman of the Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a R450m allocation would be inadequate.

“This sum represents only 28% of the amount deemed essential to secure adequate water for the metro and its growing population and expanding industrial base.”

Dams feeding the area have been slightly above 30% full, and are draining at about 4% a month. This means the city could run dry if there is no significant rain in the next six months.

Although the Eastern Cape government declared a disaster in April last year, it has been slow in quantifying drought funding needs and presenting them to the Treasury.

The chamber said its nearly 800 members were urging the fast-tracking of the Nooitgedacht low-level water scheme that brings water from the Gariep Dam on the Orange River.

“An urgent extension of this project is essential and the most efficient way to provide a long- term solution,” Mr Clark said. “As the R450m indicated allocation would fall short of the R650m required for this fast-tracking, a priority effort must be made to find the R200m shortfall.

“Obviously if water and electricity supply is not sufficient, it will have an adverse effect on investment,” Coega marketing manager Senzeni Ndebele said.

By: Mark Allix
Source: Business Day

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