The drought in Knysna led the Council to approve the request to Eden District to declare Knysna a disaster area.
The only voice of concern at the decision was COPE’s Elrick van Aswegen who wondered if “disaster area” status would affect the tourism based economy. The opposing argument is that it’ll bring in much needed funds from larger government.
Last week, Eden District approved the request which means that it now waits for Cabinet approval. The Cabinet is made up of the President, the Deputy President and Ministers.
DISASTER AREA REQUESTS
Knysna is not alone in asking for assistance in Eden. According to Eden’s communication department, “The merit of the various declarations varies from fires that raged in the Eden district over the period of December 2016 to January 2017, to drought situations in certain rural areas, as well specific towns that are currently faced with a water security challenges.”
Kannaland’s was approved in March. Oudtshoorn and Hessequa also wait for a nod from Cabinet. Bitou’s request must still come before the Eden District Council. It’s the oddity as their water supply is considered to be the most stable. They’re asking to be “pro-active with regards to water for household use” whereas Knysna simply reduced the amount of free water by half. But Bitou may get politically lucky as the town is expected to swing back into the DA’s hands and their ex-mayor, Memory Booysen, is now Eden’s Mayor.
Knysna’s problem isn’t only the drought. For a long period, Council failed to appropriately upgrade infrastructure. Approximately 10% of the water supply is being lost through pipe breaks which became a crisis this past holiday season. Additionally, the increasing population places more stress so that the long-term fix is either a new, expensive dam or the town emphasising wide-scale, green water supply (household tanks, water-saving devices etc.).
WILL CURRENT ECONOMY AFFECT REQUEST?
Citizens can hope that Cabinet’s approval will translate into new pipes. However, the current downgrading of South Africa’s economy by two rating’s agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor, may place the request in jeopardy. If Moody’s follows suite, as expected, there’d be further loss of R150-billion in the bond market.
Whether Knysna’s request is approved or not, it’s time for different thinking and alternative long-term planning.