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Water governance, “Day Zero” and the future of Cape Town4 minutes read

Three Stellenbosch University academics designed an approach to eliminate water waste from their lab’s various systems

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Water governance, "Day Zero" and the future of Cape Town
Photo credit: University of Cape Town

South Africa is one of the world’s driest countries and demand for water continues to climb. The demand for water is estimated to jump from 14.2 billion m³ in 2018 to about 18 billion m³ by 2030. This is way beyond the bearing capacity of Cape Town.

The water crisis that hit Capetonians in 2018 got so bad that its luckiest inhabitants were limited to 13 gallons of water per person per day – people reused shower water, limited toilet flushing, favoured night-time irrigation; eateries, hotels and beauty parlours appealed to people to not flush indiscriminately when they used the restrooms.

Early last year, a study projected that by 2040, at least 11 major world cities will run out of drinking water.

While Cape Town may be the first major city to run out of water, it won’t be the last. Miami, Cairo, and Tokyo are three of the global hotspots that may be hit.

Already, about two-thirds of the world’s population lives in drought conditions for at least one month every year.

It was almost a countdown for when the last drop of water from the taps will happen. Seeing the ominous signs, the government took an extraordinary gamble by announcing the “Day Zero”, a point where dam levels would be so low that taps in Cape Town will be turned off and people will have to rely on communal water collection points.

In spite of covering about two-thirds of the earth’s surface, water, especially fresh drinking water, is only 3% of the whole volume.

Water governance, "Day Zero" and the future of Cape Town

World Resources Institute’s 2014 analysis of the world’s 500 biggest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of “water stress”. Over 1 billion people lack access to water and another three billion find it difficult to access water.

The port city of over 4 million people almost became the first modern city in the world to completely run dry. One year later, and having been exposed to one of the worst-ever drought-induced urban water crises, residents became water-wise.

Cape Town’s dried out dams are now over 80% full. Water use restrictions have been relaxed. And the point at which Cape Town’s water supply would be shut off never came to pass.

Cape Town had always shown all the signs of a pending water crisis. In a dry climate, with rapid urbanization and relatively high water consumption it was only a matter of time. After three years of prolonged poor rainfall, the city announced drastic action was needed to avoid running out.

The government collaborated with residents and business concerns through various water-saving initiatives. People also pulled shared tips on social media.

Water governance, "Day Zero" and the future of Cape Town

Cape Town city officials introduced increasingly strict restrictions, which as well as limiting the volumes allowed, also restricted what the water was used for. Filling swimming pools, washing cars, and fountains were all banned.

Households using high volumes of water faced prohibitive fines. The city rolled out management devices which set a daily limit on the water supply to properties and significantly hiked tariffs.

By adjusting, forecasting and conserving water – a city’s water-consuming pattern, and ushering cost-saving approaches, Cape Town managed to avert the worst of the water scarcity crisis. 

However, the risk of future shortages remain.

Furthermore, innovative ways must be deployed to handle data analytics to manage water resources and optimize water reuse to meet the demands of a smart water future.

Ageing and costly sewer infrastructure of major world cities is a great challenge and there’s no better time than now, to invest, develop and modernize water treatment of both domestic and industrial wastewater.

Lessons from the world’s hydrohub, Singapore is instructive in this regard; it was the first country to adopt the method of recycling waste-water after it faced a water crisis.

Today, it has successfully established over 200 water companies and hydrological research centres aimed at providing its citizen with sustainable drinking water.

The Abu-Dhabi model also receives 35% of the potable water from desalinating brackish seawater. It is designed to supply 70% of the city with recycled wastewater for domestic use, irrigation and water sports.

Decentralized wastewater treatment systems are environmentally sustainable methods of promoting water governance and adequacy.

Three Stellenbosch University academics designed an approach to eliminate water waste from their lab’s various systems. Their Closed Cold Water Recycling System would conserve water and perfectly eliminate waste thereby making more potable municipal water available to users.

A Fish Hoek-based company also came up with a system to stem domestic water wastage. This simple garden greywater system connects to your showers and sinks, collects the greywater and distributes it in your garden

Because water is the sole sustenance of life and there is no substitute for water, an urgent model must be instituted to avert any pending water crisis in Capetown’s future.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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Flooding can happen anywhere

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Over the past few years, mother nature has changed its ways, because we changed ours. Homes and businesses have been affected by a combination of factors like increased rainfall and the resulting overflow from rivers, especially in coastal areas.

Even for those residents in flood-susceptible areas or riverine communities, marshy lowlands, the method and character of angry cloudburst during a flood, is problematic and fraught with imponderables that are difficult to predict.

At least 25,000 people have died annually since the 80s in Africa from flood with 11 million more affected.

Last year, floods in East Africa provoked massive flooding, landslides, and overflow of several dams across Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda. In recent times, Tanzania has spent over US$2 billion annually to manage flood. Landslides from flood took tolls in West Pokot, Kenya where 54 people died.

In Cunene Province of South Angola, Heavy rains submerged homes and damaged properties worth billions.

Mozambique lost assets and properties to 2013 floods estimated to cost over a tenth of its GDP to the tune of US$500m.

Nigeria experienced one of its worst floods in a century in 2012 – properties worth about US$10 billion were destroyed. Borno State in North-Eastern Nigeria had its worst flood in 7 years displacing over 20,000 people.

In 2019, flash floods happened in Tunisia and Algeria as well.

How ready is your community?

Homes may flood from prolonged rain over a long period of time. Internal issues like sewage leak, plumbing failure or extreme weather conditions, water-control structures like dams or levees may fall apart with devastating consequences.

Communities must pursue building approaches to withstand flood and erect structures above flood levels. In building homes and facilities, barriers should be created to prevent the ingress of floodwater into homes with high points using hard-wearing bricks or concrete or sandbags.

Encouraging tree planting across wetlands could create a wooded bulwark to break the speed of floods, check river overflow and arrest deforestation.

Farming or agrarian communities prone to flood may, with the assistance of local authorities, build flood storage reservoirs to hold back floodwater, collect excess rain and runoffs. Such reservoirs may be channelled to farms for irrigation purposes.

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Op-Ed

The role of Diaspora Nigerians in national economic development

In the USA, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group with the highest percentage of Bachelors’ degree holders

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The role of Diaspora Nigerians in national economic development

Emigration or immigration is what happens from time to time. This is when a person decides to leave their country to live permanently in another country for reasons that are not far-fetched. Some could be for economic reasons, wanting a better life or simply running away from conflicts which can be outright war or religious.

It is a fact that millions of Nigerians emigrate to other parts of the world. These migrants and their descendants make up the Nigerian Diaspora. This population range between 5 million and 15 million according to figures from official quarters.

Nigerians can be found in the United Kingdom with Peckham referred to as little Lagos, the USA, Ireland, especially in Dublin, South Africa, India, Malaysia etc. It is even a serious joke that there’s hardly any place on the planet you cannot find a Nigerian and till now I see that as a problem.

These migrants, as observed, are at a high cost to the development of Nigeria, especially when it borders on professionals like doctors, scientists, lecturers which the country is in dire need of. Unfortunately, some of Nigeria’s brightest professionals constitute the class of people leaving the country on a daily basis for other countries that provide better facilities and services for their people.

In the USA, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group with the highest percentage of Bachelors’ degree holders and have an average honourable income of $94,000 (2010 US census). We cannot also ignore the fact that Nigerians in the Diaspora also contribute largely to the economy with $12bn remitted by them in 2012 (World Bank), which is positive to our economy.

There is, therefore, a need to put in place structures and policies that will encourage some of those that have emigrated to return and use their acquired expertise to help in the development of the country.

But to have those in the Diaspora come back, especially the professionals, facilities must be provided in our hospitals, universities, government institutions and we must also apply meritocracy in appointments. Aside from that, there should be improvement in the remuneration of specialised functions while we beef up security nationwide.

The Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation is a body recognised by the Federal Government as an umbrella body of Nigerian citizens in the Diaspora with a vision to harness the skills and expertise of Nigerians with the view to providing them for the development of the country.

The Nigerian government has to take advantage of this body in making some appointments in government agencies and institutions. The appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Director of the World Bank, is one that easily comes to mind. Her impact as Minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the economy under the Jonathan administration cannot be underestimated. The structures she put in place to check “ghost” workers as well as the Treasury Single Account have, in no small measure, minimised corruption.

Also, the impact of Dr. Akin Adesina, a former agricultural economist at the Rockefeller Foundation, who became the Minister of Agriculture, was also positive, as he returned to use his expertise to develop the country.

Another well-known case is the success of Singapore linked to Lee Kuan Yew. Lee studied Law in Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge, UK. In 1950, he was admitted to the English Bar but instead of practising there, he returned to Singapore and became the first Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990. He transformed Singapore from one of the poorest countries in the world in the 60’s to one of the most advanced today. He built a country based on the rule of law with an efficient government structure and continuously fights against corruption and insecurity.

Unfortunately, we cannot say this of Nigeria, reasons being the structures, policies, establishments are not in place to attract and facilitate integration.

We can identify Nigerians and award scholarships to them in specific institutions with the clause of returning home to help in the country development in various fields. However, the government on the other part must ensure adequate facilities are in place for their return.

The ease of doing business has significantly improved and there is a need to legalise the whistle-blower policy as part of our anti-corruption drive.

Competence and honesty must be introduced in making appointments to critical government positions. All these will ensure we appoint the best Nigerians both home and abroad, leading to good governance and increased investors’ confidence in our economy.

We have no other country but Nigeria; we have the human and abundant natural resources to make the country an economic power. But we must enthrone meritocracy and honesty as our way of life and shun ethnicity and religious animosity. The journey has just begun and we must all join hands in making this country great, again.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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Op-Ed

Period poverty: The fault in our blood

In Kenya alone, almost 50 per cent of school-going girls do not have access to sanitary products

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Period poverty: The fault in our blood
Photo credit: youthsdigest.com

A family of 8 has just been admitted in Mafalala health centre, Mozambique. They all woke up to what seemed like food poisoning. It was not merely food poisoning. It was the eldest daughter, who inadvertently introduced microbes and bacterial toxins into the food due to poor hygiene – poor hygiene from period poverty.

In a nutshell, ‘Period poverty’ refers to lacking access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, decent toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management due to financial constraints.

While many may be lucky enough to probably take this for granted, one in ten girls miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary products. Some stay away because there aren’t safe, private toilets to use at school.

In Kenya alone, almost 50 per cent of school-going girls do not have access to sanitary products.

WHO states that, each year, 600 million people (1 out of 10 persons around the world) become ill after consuming contaminated food. Among all these people, 420,000 die, including 125,000 children under the age of 5.

Women and girls’ health may be put at risk, as they are forced to use dirty rags which can cause infection. Risks can be greater if the women or girl has undergone female genital mutilation.

READ: Somalia marks 16 Days of activism against gender-based violence

In Maradi, Zinder and other parts of Niger Republic, study carried out for menstruating women and girls between 15 and 45 show that they observe nutritional and religious restrictions.

With men and boys less concerned about the management of menstruation among women, there is low awareness on menstrual health management which is more prevalent among nomadic women (96%) compared to sedentary women (49%).

There are many other health risks linked with the current practices of many girls during their menstrual cycles, especially in the rural or poor neighbourhoods.

Most times, girls are unaware of the availability of sanitary pads. They often resort to using pieces of mattress, chicken feathers, dry leaves, and newspapers to meet their needs and to attend school during their periods. The outcome is mostly offensive, repulsive and discomforting to the girls yet fertile for disease-causing organisms.

Some girls would employ plastic bowls because conveniences are far-flung from their residences; some dig holes at home and sit on them intermittently for the period of their menstruation!

UNICEF’s investigation found 54% of Kenyan girls reported challenges with accessing menstrual hygiene products. The research also highlighted that one in ten adolescent girls admitted to having transactional sex for pads in Kenya’s Kibera slums.

READ: Victims accuse Solomon Folorunsho of Benin-based IDP camp of abuse

Period poverty: The fault in our blood
Photo credit: Daily Post

In villages where sanitary pads are not available and girls do not have transport – many times unable to afford a bus fare – these taboo issues become so repeated they get nearly normalised.

With most of these women constantly handling dishes or domestic necessities of the family, the likelihood of introducing disease-causing organisms to water, fruits, vegetables or food is high.

Before pads became commonplace, women historically placed in all sorts during menses. Tampons were prevalent at a point, but leaving a tampon in for too long could lead to infections and sometimes cause life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

TSS is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Menstrual hygiene is so vital that it should be part of the primary school curriculum across Africa. Boys, too, should know about it.

A team of wonderful women called the Numwa Mothers Sewing group sew inexpensive sanitary pads for schools in Zimbabwe. Canada and Australia recently ended tampon tax. Sanitary products in India have become 100% tax-free, while Scotland now offers free sanitary products to low-income families.

For keeping more Tanzanian girls in school with her enlightenment and investment in Menstrual Hygiene, entrepreneur Lucy Odiwa won the World Bank’s first SDGs and Her competition in 2018.

READ: Morocco’s health minister urges doctors to prioritise patient care

Options available to the girl child are; frequently changed tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups. Menstrual cups are usually sterilised and reusable. They will no longer have to miss days in the week every month, while classes are on.

Little girls who are yet to start earning livelihood do not have to pay for a natural process which they have little or no control over. We must do better by pushing for progressive policies to end period poverty in Africa. We can do better.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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