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South Africa
Society | Environment - Nature

Disasters increase in numbers in South Africa

afrol News, 20 January - According to the provincial government of Western Cape, South Africa, there is an ever-increasing number of disasters in the province; in particular those related to the weather. The regional drought that is currently crippling the province was attributed to global warming.

The provincial cabinet of South Africa's Western Cape met yesterday to discuss "the recent spate of disasters in the province and the worsening drought." Only from April 2004 to 18 January 2005, there were 376 disasters - mostly fire and flood - affecting 12,351 families and displacing 52,283 people with 45 deaths in the Western Cape. Many of these occurred in Cape Town.

The many small-scale disasters are mostly attributed to poverty, which again leads to constructions of poor safety standards. In addition to these poverty-related disasters, however, a new pattern of climate change-related disasters was emerging, the provincial government observed.

In terms of the drought gripping Western Cape, provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool had resolved to approach South African President Thabo Mbeki to declare drought stricken parts of the province as disaster areas. This was in order to raise an additional rand 26 million to supplement the feed of livestock in order to facilitate keeping farm workers on farms.

The Western Cape government noted "the increasingly self-evident manifestations of climate change" in connection with the drought in Southern Africa. "We are a water scarce continent, country and province," the provincial government said, expressing its concern over this climate change.

The Climate Analysis Department at the University of Cape Town had indicated to the government that regional "rain patterns are changing with longer dry periods interspersed by shorter concentrated periods of rain and that we are also currently in the middle of a 20-year dry cycle."

Recent rainfall in the province had been between 50-75 percent below average. The impact of this on the Western Cape in terms of water sources, crops, flora and fauna, economic and infrastructural planning, energy needs and attitudes now needed to be "understood and integrated in all provincial activities," the government found.

Water and energy supplies were already short in the province and climatic changes could make this situation even worse. Only one more significant dam could be built in Western Cape, which could be on the Olifants River. This would exhaust the province's current surface water catchment abilities.

The provincial government Western Cape decided to allocate an amount of rand 2 million for an urgent investigation into alternative water sources including the evaluation of desalination and other aquifer systems and crop alternatives "as a response to the impact that global warming is having."

As a response to the current drought, however, the provincial government did not want to leave any possibility untested. Premier Rasool said that he now was to meet with faith leaders from Western Cape to join him and cabinet in a multi-faith Day of Prayer for Rain.

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