CLEAN drinking water and clean air available for breathing are some of the most precious natural resources we take for granted.
If the observed behaviour of waste and neglect is anything to go by, it seems like it never occurs to some people that clean drinking water may only continue to be available for a limited time.
This is despite many calls for a change in behaviour and for peple to take an active part in protecting our country’s water resources.
The natural resources of our planet are under threat.
There have been warning signs for a number of years.
It is unfortunate that the continuous calls for the protection of water and other natural resources have not elicited a positive response to curb global warming, protecting the environment and protecting the finite resources of our planet.
To many people it seems like water will always be there, that the air we breathe will never run short; for many it is not a priority to modify their behaviour and not to harm the atmosphere.
We know that many poor people from different parts of the world have been alienated from their global human responsibility of protecting the environment, the planet and all natural resources of Mother Earth by the actions of a few rich people.
Many rich economies of today were the greatest polluters of the atmosphere during years of industrialisation.
They polluted the environment and forced many poor people to do things that were harmful to the environment, such as chopping down trees for fire and cooking, in order for them to survive.
Governments across the globe have not prioritised environmental education.
This has led to ignorance among many people of the world, rich and poor, about the need to protect and preserve the finite natural resources.
The harm that we have caused to the environment has led, among other things, to the melting of icebergs, which in turn has led to a rise in sea levels, excessive heat waves, heavy and disastrous rainfalls, unpredictable weather patterns and seasons that no longer conform to known patterns.
We have experienced overly long summers and winters with very little in between of spring and autumn. These are some of the negative effects of climate change that are affecting our lives.
We have been experiencing extremes in weather conditions, which have manifested in El Niño and and its flipside, La Niña.
These are the ugly facts that require urgent and drastic changes in our relationship with Mother Nature and the other inhabitants of our planet.
I am one of the marginal voices who have warned that the wars of the 21st century would be over water and other natural resources, if no drastic measure is taken to protect these and share them equally among the people and countries of the world.
The Free State Provincial Government has declared the province a drought disaster area through a proclamation by Premier Ace Magashule.
This comes after observations of unusual rainfall trends by scientists. The policy action of government has also been informed by recommendations from experts and think-tank panels who have evaluated the data collected by scientists.
We know that since 1994, the government of South Africa has been working hard to give the the people of our country access to decent potable water for household, agricultural and industrial use and for sanitation purposes.
We also know that providing this universal access has been very costly to the government, because more people than had been expected have been gaining access to this resource, both in the formal dwellings and in marginalised parts of our country, such as informal settlements.
In the Free State, we know that mountainous areas such as Qwaqwa, Makholokoeng and Diyatalawa have been hard to reach, as government has been installing pipelines that extract water from sources situated many kilometres away.
We know that Botshabelo, as one of the biggest townships in South Africa, has not had access to water sources and decent sanitation since the days of apartheid.
The principle of enabling universal access to decent water services and sanitation has placed a huge burden on the state to reach all people in all places at once.
As a result, we have experienced the non-waterborne sanitation methods that were implemented in places like Botshabelo, e.g. “the VIP” toilet.
Whilst the intentions of the state are to eventually provide waterborne sanitation to all people in the country, the challenge of global climate change has made it imperative to think differently about this scarce resource.
Water is scarce. Water is not available in the quantities that are able to meet all the human demands.
In other parts of the world, people have started to recycle water and they have restrictions regarding access and use of water.
We know that in ther countries people who waste water pay heavy penalties.
In our country, we know that the province of KwaZulu-Natal is already experiencing water scarcity and has been implementing water restrictions.
Our own Mangaung Metro has posters all over the City warning us about the need to use water sparingly and alerting us to the water restrictions.
We need to learn new ways of preser-ving water such as:
) Use a glass of water when brushing your teeth, rather than letting the tap run while you brush.
) Do not take your time in the shower. Smear soap all over your body and then open the shower only to rinse.
) Refrain from filling the bathtub to capacity every time you wash.
) Refrain from neglecting communal taps by letting them run unattended
) Report water leaks to the local municipality.
The Mangaung Metro has a dedicated hotline and the idea is to expand this into a provincial hotline.
) Refrain from recklessly using fresh water to wash cars, fill up swimming pools and irrigate gardens.
) Find alternative means of sanitation other than water for townships and suburbs.
Make every minute a water-saving minute.
Integrity is what you have when no one is watching you.
) Mvambi is the Free State Provincial government spokesperson