The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize led South Africa’s celebration of the 2018 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) which was held in Upington from 15 to 16 November 2018, calling on better planning and coordination to implement disaster risk reduction plans.
Minister Mkhize was joined by the Premier of Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas MEC responsible for Local Government in the Northern Cape, Mr Bentley Vass and the Executive Mayor of Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality, Ms Limakatso Koloi, Acting Executive Mayor of ZF Mgcawu District Municipality, Ms Mpho Mashila, as well as key stakeholders including councillors, emerging farmers, Traditional leaders and representatives of private sector institutions.
“Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all important and will surely assist us in medium to long term to reduce the risk of disasters.
Since its inception in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction, IDDR celebrated annually on, 13 October has been raising awareness of how people as individuals and communities around the world reduce their exposure to disasters and educating others about the need to reduce the risks.
Within the South African context, disaster management is a multi-sectoral activity, which is dependent on the role of all sectors whose line function interact with disasters in one way or another. It is against this backdrop that, organs of state in various levels across the country are at different levels of developing and implementing their disaster management plans, which incorporates climate change adaptation. These plans are based on the Risk Assessment processes that have been undertaken to determine the types of risks / hazards the plans are to address.
The gathering of various sectors in Upington provided an opportunity to not only celebrate this important day, but to reflect, share case studies and plan going forward how every person can contribute in reducing the risk of disasters. The two days engagements were seized with the question – “How do we reduce disaster risk and build resilience by moving from commitments to impactful action?”
The first day of the two day celebration was on Thursday, 15 November 2018, which saw practitioners and experts coming together to discuss key issues and areas that can assist to reduce disaster economic losses.
The discussions on the first day looked at various themes: 1) Climate variability and change, the key drivers of ecosystems drought phenomenon, worsened by invasive plant species and poor water management; 2) Building resilience for economic benefit; 3) Fire Services – a socio economic enabler; 4) Multi-disciplinary voices.
South Africa, like other countries in the region, continent and the world, is vulnerable to a number of natural and anthropogenic hazards.
The message was therefore clear from the technical meeting, ignoring the risk of disasters can be at our own peril.
Climate change was raised sharply as one of the key challenges facing communities through changes in weather and climate hazards. Natural hazards and climate change extremes pose a significant development challenge to the region.
The issue of drought dominated discussions as the Northern Cape, like many other Provinces across the country was affected by drought, hence it became a simple case study understood by all in attendance looking at its negative impact.
The second day of the IDDR celebration on 16 November 2018, begun with a site visit of the 323km flood diversion wall project in the vicinity of Upington along the banks of Orange River. This important project will benefit farmers who suffered extensive multiple damages due to flooding of the of the Orange River. Once fully completed, the project will have cost around R1.1b. The principals also met one of the farmers who expressed his gratitude for the good work done as it will go a long way to ensure that farming is not in anyway disturbed, because without this walls, there is no farming.
From the disaster point of view, this wall protects economic investment such as the farms managed by the emerging farmers. The principals concerned with the challenge of drought in the Northern Cape, saw an exponential increase in invader plant populations, which outcompetes the population and native vegetation for water.
The high proportions of Prosopis invader plant species with its deep root systems and high water consumption deplete the groundwater table with a potential to cause land degradation and ultimately, desertification.
After the walkabout and the inspection of the flood diversion wall, the leadership engaged stakeholders and sectors in attendance. The Premier welcomed the opportunity given to the Northern Cape Province to host IDDR. Addressing delegates, the Premier called for better planning for disasters to ensure preparedness and also emphasised the need for resourcing such plans for better and impactful implementation.
In his address, Minister Mkhize emphasised the significance of IDDR as a celebration of how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters, which will in turn contribute to the achievement of IDDR 2018 theme – “Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience” – Reducing direct disaster economic losses in relation to gross domestic product by 2030.
Acknowledging that disasters continue to wreak havoc throughout the world, Minister called for the reduction of exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all important and will surely assist in medium to long term to reduce the risk of disasters.
The Minister indicated even though the country received summer rainfalls in different parts, drought conditions persisted particularly in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape provinces where provincial state of disasters were declared in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002.
To this effect, the celebration of the 2018 IDDR in the Northern Cape Province gives us an excellent opportunity to acknowledge interventions implemented by government and other role players to reduce the immediate impact of the drought while building resilience among the most vulnerable in the long-term. In this regard, Minister highlighted the funding totaling R79.1 million allocated to dealing with the challenges of drought during 2017/2018. For the 2018/19 financial year, R84 678 000 (R84.6 million) was allocated to the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development for the transportation and provision of livestock feed to the affected farming communities.
Minister appreciated all efforts and positive outcomes of the interventions drought interventions which can be attributed to the coordinated and integrated efforts played by the different stakeholders; sector departments, municipalities, private sector and non-governmental organisations as envisioned by the Disaster Management Act, 2002.
Minister also touched on the negative effects of veldfires within the context of disasters as it also pose a major hazard to human lives, livelihoods and ecosystem and property. During October/ November 2018, the Garden Route District Municipalities was ravaged by devastating veldfires of unprecedented magnitude resulting in damages worth millions of Rands causing widespread damages and resulting in the loss lives.
“We call on communities to develop and Promote A culture of disaster risk avoidance as this will surely safeguard our development efforts and community livelihoods against hazards and disaster impacts”, said Minister Mkhize.
The meeting called on government departments and municipalities to ensure that the minimum safety standards are observed in all their buildings as the first line of defence against disaster. To promote disaster risk reduction, the NDMC will continue to collaborate with sector departments, Provincial Disaster Management Centres and municipalities to ensure that they have disaster management plans; and that such plans are implemented.
In conclusion, Minister called for disaster risk reduction and increased resilience anchored on collaboration across governments and key stakeholders to generate, and make a more effective use of scientific data and information, identification of knowledge, use indigenous knowledge and capacity gaps, and co-produce solutions that can effectively support decisions and actions towards resilience building.
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