Maverick Citizen

Eastern Cape Drought

Nelson Mandela Bay again declared a disaster area

The Lakefarm lake, one of Nelson Mandela Bay's biggest fresh water lakes have all but dried up.(Photo: Mike Holmes)

A lapsed disaster declaration for Nelson Mandela Bay was renewed on Monday as the dam levels in the metro dropped to 20.2% and emergency funding for a critical water scheme remains tied up in a tender dispute. The declaration will again allow the metro to access emergency assistance from the national government.

After the previous declaration was allowed to lapse, despite an ongoing drought that had not been broken, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was again declared a disaster area on Monday (4 May) as the combined dam levels dropped to 20.2%. 

According to the latest statistics by the Department of Water Affairs, the metro’s largest supply dam, the Kouga Dam, is currently only 12% full and the second largest, the Impofu Dam is at 16.7%. The smaller Churchill Dam is 65% full and the Groendal Dam at 35.4%. 

“Without a declaration of state of disaster, the National Disaster Management Centre cannot assess the magnitude and severity of the disaster and the disaster cannot be classified neither can the implementation of any contingency plans or emergency procedures that may be applicable in the circumstances, be initiated.   

“In summary, efforts to secure disaster funding cannot be initiated,” the Department of Water Affairs’ spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said. 

Ratau said the provincial disaster management centre was in support of a redeclaration of disaster due to the drought in Nelson Mandela Bay. 

He admitted that R200-million in emergency funding was currently tied up due to a tender dispute. According to the department’s data, the combined dam levels for the metro are now at 20%. 

Children carry water home in Missionvale, Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo: Mike Holmes)

Despite this, the Department of Water Affairs believes that the city will be able to access sufficient water to avoid Day Zero because of access to the Nooitgedagt water scheme that gets water from the Gariep Dam.

“Whilst the storage dams in Algoa System [supplying the metro] are regarded as critical, it needs to be pointed out that up to half of the water needed by Nelson Mandela Bay can be delivered from the Nooitgedagt scheme, which receives water from the largest dam in SA, the Gariep Dam, which is 100% full and spilling [over],” Ratau said. 

“The metro was allocated a sum of R97-million for groundwater development through the Municipal Disaster Grant. All the funds were spent on drilling and equipping 150 boreholes. 

“The municipality was also allocated R233.4-million from the municipal disaster recovery grant (2018/19) for the construction of a water treatment works. The project will free up to 17.3Ml [million litres] per day from the Nooitgedagt scheme and supply the drought-stricken western side of the city. Part of this project was completed and a roll-over of funds amounting to a sum of R200-million was granted by the National Treasury in October 2019,” he added. 

“As at 31 March 2020, there has been no expenditure of the roll-over funds yet, due to the legal objections and appeal on the Coega Kop Water Treatment Works [tender] which started in July 2019 up to February 2020. The commencement of the contract was issued in March 2020 and was subsequently affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.”  

Ratau said as of March 31, the metro’s daily water consumption was 327.3Ml/day. 

Huge water leaks, like this one in Walmer Township, are often left unattended for days, according to the Democratic Alliance.(Photo: Mike Holmes)

The Democratic Alliance’s Retief Odendaal said there were concerns as extensive construction would be needed to get water from the Nooitgedagt water scheme to the western and southern parts of the city. 

“Construction would also be needed to get water to high-lying areas,” he said. “These infrastructure projects have either not started or have not been completed.”  

He said this was one of the reasons why they had requested a water engineer to be seconded to the metro by the Department of Water Affairs. “Unless they come to help there is no way these projects will be finished. The metro has no water engineers on staff. They only rely on outside consultants,” he said. 

The metro’s drought disaster plan includes water restrictions, meter replacement and consumer awareness and a strategy to fix water leaks. It also entails drilling boreholes and maximising the Nooitgedagt scheme through treatment capacity at Grassridge Reservoir and upgraded pump stations and conveyance pipelines to better manage the spread of water.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation is constructing Phase 3 of the Nooitgedagt-Coega Low Level Water Scheme and is planning the construction of the Coerney Balancing Dam to provide emergency storage on the Lower Sundays River Canal to sustain the raw water source to the Nooitgedagt water works,” Ratau said. DM/MC

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