The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), honourable Des van Rooyen chaired a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on Drought and Water Supply Shortages on 07 July 2017 in Pretoria. This meeting followed the one that was held on 12 April 2017 which focused mainly on the report of the National Joint Drought Coordination Committee (NJDCC) on the Western Cape Province because of drought and fire incidents experienced in the Imizamo Yethu and other parts of the Province.
The IMTT requested the NJDCC to carry-out activities that were planned in the Imizamo Yethu and also to plan for the Water Indaba that was held on 16 May 2017.
That meeting of 12 April 2017 also emphasised the need to prepare a comprehensive motivation to request funding to deal with the effects of drought.
To this effect, the meeting of 07 July 2017 looked at the progress that has been registered thus far by various departments and government structures across the three spheres to deal with the negative effects of drought and water shortages.
The following reports were considered at the meeting of 07 July 2017:
a) The South African Weather Services indicated that most parts of the country experienced improvement in the levels of rainfall during February 2017 except the south-western parts of the country. The Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI) maps give an indication of areas where prolonged droughts exist because of below-normal rainfall recorded over a period of six months or longer. The 12-month SPI shows prolonged dry conditions over the south-western parts of the country. There is noticeable improvement on the levels of rainfalls from 2016 to 2017 over the central and eastern parts of the country.
The dry conditions have set-in over the southern to western parts of the country. There is still a significant amount of uncertainty in the rainfall forecast for winter (July 2017 to September 2017) season. However, there is an indication of above normal rain over the far western parts of the Western Cape Province in early spring (August to October 2017). Most forecasting systems indicate warmer than normal temperatures across the country during the period September 2017 to November 2017. The likelihood of an El Nino in the next summer season is less than previously indicated. However, a borderline event is still possible. Conservative planning for the summer rainfall regions is advised wherever possible;
b) The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) head, Dr Tau informed the meeting that disaster reduction requires integrated approach. A report was tabled at the meeting covering the funding arrangements for disaster, disaster recovery, emergency response, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The report of the NJDCC covered the interventions introduced to deal with the effects of drought conditions and wild fires. It also covers the recommendations made by the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum. The issues raised at the 3rd Presidential Local Government Summit held this year (2017) are also taken into account when developing plans to prevent and deal with disaster situations.
The NDMC reported that although summer rainfalls have been received in some parts of the country, the drought conditions are still persisting. The recent rainfall brought relieve to some of the country’s major dams which recorded 100% full during the period February – March 2017. The majority of rain was experienced over the eastern parts of the country during the month of May 2017. The eastern parts of the KwaZulu-Natal Province experienced the most rainfalls at over 200mm. The Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces also experienced more than the average rain during the month of May 2017. There was very little rain in the western parts of the country. Recently, the western parts of the country experienced some decent amount of rainfalls due to a succession of cold frontal systems passing the southern extremities of the country.
Devastating storms and ravaging fires which caused damage to property and loss of lives were experienced in some parts of the country. Swartland, Bitou and Knysna Local Municipalities were declared state of local disaster as a result of fires. The fires spilled over to the Eastern Cape Province and affected the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, i.e. Kouga and Koukamma Local Municipalities and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality. The National Joints Intelligence and Security (NATJOINTS) was activated to monitor, report and provide support in the management of extreme weather conditions in the Western Cape Province.
The drought conditions are still persisting in the Western Cape Province. The rainfall forecast for the Western Cape Province during the winter season is still uncertain. It is recommended that the drought risk reduction measures that have been introduced in this Province should continue to be implemented. There is however, an indication of above-normal rainfall in the Province during late winter season towards early spring.
The meeting noted that the process of declaring a disaster takes too long in in some municipalities. To this effect, the IMTT mandated the NDMC to look into the process to declare an area as disaster area in an effort to alleviate the suffering of people who are negatively impacted by disasters.
c) The Department of Environmental Affairs informed the meeting that the first Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios (LGTAS) were developed in 2014 and continues to investigate and assess climate change issues and hazards associated with the climate change. The meeting was briefed on the Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) and the LTAS key messages for the following: Water; agriculture and fisheries, human health, human settlement, disaster risk reduction and management; economics to adaptation in future climates; biodiversity and ecosystems.
The meeting noted that the coast is vulnerable to biotic and abiotic (physical) hazards. Biotic vulnerability is evident in the expansion in areas affected by harmful algal blooms, lobster walk-outs and alien invasive species. Physical vulnerability includes storm damage and coastal erosion.
There is a need to evaluate and assess the provincial climate risks, vulnerability and impacts to give effect to policies at provincial level. The Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability Assessments (CCRVAs) are more specific to each province’s socio-economic and biophysical context. The climate trends and downscaled climate change projections for the short, medium and long term should be used to understand the sectoral realities and vulnerabilities. The pre-existing climate risks, historical trends and changing climate risks should be assessed.
The meeting agreed to continue implementing plans that will assist to mitigate the negative impact of the current drought. The meeting also agreed to upscale communication and engagements with communities, educating them about this challenge, whilst also raising awareness and profiling the ongoing work on the ground.
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