Authorities in South Africa’s biggest city have asked residents to be on the alert for rats, which are thriving because of a four-week strike by garbage collectors pressing for a salary increase.
Thousands of garbage collectors in Johannesburg have been on strike since March 9. Some downtown streets resemble a dumping site, with pedestrians stepping over piles of refuse. Motorists battled for alternative routes as some roads became impassable.
The African News Agency on Monday quoted a provincial health official as saying residents should organize their own garbage collection to stop rats from breeding.
The city has introduced a round-the-clock “hotline” telephone number for residents who need cleaning tools, gloves and waste disposal bags.
TAPS ran dry in some 40 areas in Johannesburg this week coinciding with the launch of the ongoing National Water Week.
As Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, was flagging off the exercise under the theme, “‘Water for People, Water by People,” in Port Elizabeth, thousands of kilometers away, scores of Johannesburg residents were reeling under the shortage of the precious liquid.
According to City Power officials, the problem emanated from Rand Water linking a new pipe to the existing infrastructure over the weekend, which meant disrupting the feed to the Yeoville reservoir. The facility carries 40 million litres per day.
An operation that was supposed to have lasted 24 hours from 06h00 on Sunday was beset by complications hence it took longer than expected and the reservoir ran dry.
Among the affected areas were Berea, Bertams, Bez Valley, Braamfontein, Bruma, Cyrildene, Doornfontein, Hillbrow, Kensington, Malvern, Observatory, Troyeville, Parktown and Yeoville.
These communities were left resembling villages as residents could be seen moving bucket in hand to secure water from neighbouring and tanks the water utility had placed in some areas.
Scuffles broke out intermittently at the few flats that had water as residents jostled in queues, particularly on Monday evening.
Similar scenes were reported at a number of tanks Joburg Water placed in key areas including hospitals and police stations.
There was pandemonium at a street corner in Yeoville as residents scrambled to collect water from a burst pipe.
“Should we die now because this is not working for anyone,” said Hillbrow resident Nomusa Ndlovu.
However, to some, the setback evoked a sense of humour. “Joburg residents will be like, ‘We don’t have water while it is raining’. I can never understand,” tweeted a resident.
Joburg Water apologised for the inconveniences. The utility said it would take longer to restore supplies to higher-lying areas.
At the time of going to print, residents confirmed supplies had been restored.
On Sunday morning, Americans will “spring forward.” With the exception of Hawaii and some parts of Arizona, people will set their clocks ahead to get more light at night.
Not everybody’s on board. Sure, Australia and most of Europe join us but most African and Asian nations skip daylight saving time. India and China don’t enforce it, for example.
But it doesn’t mean they haven’t tried. Since the concept of daylight saving time was first embraced by Germany during World War I, many parts of the world have flirted with DST, mostly in the hope it could cut down on electricity usage.
“Somehow, people [around the world] bought into the notion that if we squeeze our clocks enough, we could save oil,” says Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. “Unlike any other energy policy, it costs the consumers nothing, so legislators love it.”
It’s hard to prove it. In a given year it could look like DST is saving people money, he says. “But really, it could be due to something like a mild spring.”
Sometimes, DST is practiced in places where it doesn’t make sense, like countries near the equator, says Downing. “The amount of sunlight is pretty steady,” he says. “But they wanted to line up with American time zones and keep themselves in sync.”
Here’s a few examples of how different places have played around with daylight saving time:
Struggling with frequent blackouts, in 2009 the country observed DST on a trial basis to see if it would help save energy. In just six months it was canceled. The government said DST did help reduce peak electricity demand, but not everyone was a fan. People were confused by the switch, and sleepy schoolchildren were mad about having to wake up in the dark. Bangladesh hasn’t tried it again since then.
The Brits introduced daylight saving time during World War II, and since then different leaders have loved it or left it. In 2014, DST was reintroduced to help curb energy consumption — but was discontinued the next year. Citizens were unhappy about changing the clocks four times during the year — Egypt paused DST during Ramadan to end the fast an hour earlier. And studies showed no effect on energy consumption.
Namibia is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to use daylight saving time, which they’ve had since 1994. But it could soon go away. Citizens complain that when the clocks are set back, it gets dark too early when people come home from work. So last year, the government launched public consultations to look into nixing it for good.
In 2014, a group of researchers at the municipal energy office in Durban, South Africa,put together a report to test the idea of DST. In addition to potentially reducing the town’s annual electricity consumption between .2 and .5 percent, the researchers hoped to enhance the “lifestyle benefits for Durban residents and tourism” — the latest sunset in Durban is 7 p.m. But South Africa still has not joined the DST bandwagon.
One More Weird Thing…
Some places play with time for their own reasons. A resort in Madagascar called Anjajavy wanted the sun to rise later and set earlier, so they created their own time zone — an hour ahead of the rest of Madagascar — for a later sunset hour. Visitors have to change their watches to Anjajavy time. Says the hotel’s website: “A time peculiar to Anjajavy the lodge was created so that we are better adjusted to the natural cycles of the reserve and the village. Therefore, at 5 pm lemurs naturally join us in the Oasis garden to take advantage the foliage. It is fresh hour, right in time for the “5 O’clock tea.”
Emakhazeni – The Emakhazeni local municipality in Mpumalanga is investigating an official who is accused of deliberately supplying dirty water to the community of Siyathuthuka township in Emakhazeni.
The municipality’s executive mayor Hamza Ngwenya confirmed with a News24 Correspondent that an investigation was under way and that the official has since been moved from his position.
“There’s an employee who is suspected of channelling water directly from the dams bypassing the water purification process and feeding it directly to the community for consumption. This is a matter the municipality is still establishing the facts [about] with a view to deal with it administratively,” said Ngwenya on Wednesday.
On Monday, the entire township was brought to a standstill, when the community blocked all access roads to protest against dirty water and allegations of corruption by an official in the municipality.
Residents claim that the upheaval was sparked off by the flow of dirty black water from taps for more than a week.
“For more than seven days we were forced to buy water for drinking and bathing because the tap water was so dirty and black,” said a protesting resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another resident said a local hospital advised him to boil water before consumption after his daughter fell sick, which could be an indication that the illness may have been caused by the water quality.
‘Difficult’ for the municipality
Provincial health department spokesperson Chris Nobela confirmed an increase in the number of patients with sicknesses that could be linked to the consumption of untreated water.
He said this, however, happened in December 2015.
“Between the 17th and 25th December (2015), the HA Grove Hospital in Emakhazeni treated 19 patients for stomach cramps and diarrhoea, and the patients were being advised to boil the water before use, and since then the situation has normalised,” said Nobela.
Ngwenya acknowledged that it was difficult for the municipality to deal with the matter.
He said as a precautionary measure, the municipality has shifted the official responsible for the water treatment plant to another department while investigations were still continuing.
“The issue of water quality cannot be resolved overnight, especially if it is true that there’s a person who is sabotaging [efforts to supply clean water]. I’m told by the manager that the suspect has been removed from the plant and placed in another department,” said Ngwenya.
He also disclosed that the water infrastructure in Emakhazeni local municipality was no longer capable to match the township’s rapid growth.
“Our infrastructure is no longer able to keep up with the population growth, while there has never been the upgrading of the infrastructure,” said Ngwenya.
He said, however, the department of water affairs would be installing the requisite infrastructure.
“There’s a project that we are going to be implementing through the [national] department of water and sanitation to improve the water infrastructure. According to the department of (water and sanitation), the contractor would be on site by April,” said Ngwenya.
In terms of the department of water affairs’ Blue Drop water audits conducted in 2014, Emakhazeni is described as Mpumalanga province’s 8th worst performing water service authority of the province’s 18 municipalities.
Emakhazeni’s overall Blue Drop score is a mere 50%.
“The Municipality has not maintained a comprehensive water safety planning process since the previous water safety plan was developed in 2012. Corrective actions identified in the 2012 risk assessment are still outstanding and limited implementation of any recommendations provided in the 2013 process audits,” reads the report.
The only time Emakhazeni’s water quality received a Blue Drop certification was in 2011 when it achieved a score of 89%.
Water authorities are setting up schemes to supply water to the three million residents who are faced with shortages, thanks to the ongoing drought.
The City of Durban has moved to the next level of drought, with city water officials rolling out contingency measures for residents who do not have access to water.
Its three million residents are already living with water restrictions, thanks to South Africa’s worst drought in 112-years. KwaZulu-Natal has had several droughts since 2012, but declared a provincial drought disaster in late 2014.
In that time, the three major dams that supply Durban and the rest of the province have seen their levels drop to as low as 30%.
The contingency measures have already seen water tanks installed around the city and an increase in water tankers so that people can access water if they do not have any. Officials at Umgeni Water, the local utility, say further measures will include four-litre bags of water being distributed to people who have the least access to water.
Other South African cities are in the early stages of this, with places such as Bloemfontein imposing severe water restrictions and fines for wastage.
Research released by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis this week said this sort of urban water crunch would become the norm this century, if nothing was done to lower consumption and use water more efficiently.
The research – “Pressure building on global water supply” – was published in the journal Geoscientific Model Development.
It warned: “Our current water use habits increase the risk of being unable to maintain sustainable food production and economic development for the future generation.”
South Africa’s droughts are cyclical and the current one has been exacerbated by El Niño, but the 31st-driest country in the world has targeted water waste as a big problem for the future. The Water Research Council, a quasi-government research body, estimates that a third of all water is lost in water systems.
Fixing this is part of the national response to the ongoing drought.
In the long term, South Africa’s environment department predicts that droughts will become more frequent and more intense. Rainfall might increase, but it will only do so in the eastern parts of the country. This rain will also come in heavier and more damaging spells, which makes storing the water more difficult.
Cape Town – Faced with the lowest dam levels in eight years, the City of Cape Town has cautioned residents that water restrictions could be on the cards when summer starts.
The city’s mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said: “Over the past 15 years, the city has recognised that existing water resources should be used as effectively as possible. As a result, we have intensified measures to use water more efficiently and to reduce water consumption and wastage.
“Despite some rains, we still urge residents to save water, as Cape Town is a water scarce region.”
Although there had been some rain since the beginning of winter, the runoff had not significantly increased dam levels. The city was therefore facing the possibility that the levels at the end of winter would not have recovered to the same levels experienced in previous years.
Dam levels would be assessed at the end of the season by the National Department of Water and Sanitation, as usual.
“A decision will then be taken on how the system of dams will be operated over the next year, including whether water restrictions will be required.”
Sonnenberg said the city wanted to re-emphasise the need for consumers to continue with water-saving practices to conserve as much water as possible before the drier summer months.
These initiatives, coupled with improved leak detection, asset management and pressure management schemes had helped to significantly curb the city’s water demand growth and wastage over the past 15 years.
He added that the city’s water by-law called for compliance with water conservation and demand management practices.
Recommended water-saving tips include:
* Perform a water audit at home
* Fix leaks on plumbing system and appliances.
* Take showers instead of baths.
* Reduce shower time.
* Confine watering of gardens to before 10am or after 4pm.
* Cover garden beds with mulch to retard evaporation.
* Monitor water meters for high consumption and possible water leaks.
* Fit hoses with trigger sprayer nozzles.
* Use brooms to sweep hard surfaces instead of a water hose.
* Use buckets for vehicle washing (informal car washes to use trigger sprayer nozzles and formal to recycle their water).
* Re-use the final rinse water from washing machines for the next wash cycle.