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26 June 2023 Media Release: In order for communities to survive climate change, it’s back to the basics for government

Media Release: In order for communities to survive climate change, it’s back to the basics for Government

For Immediate Release
26 June 2023

“The still rising Cholera death toll in Gauteng and elsewhere in the interior should serve as a rude awakening for Local Governments as well as the communities they serve. In order for all to enjoy essential necessities such as clean running water and health, we need to refocus our attention on better managing our natural resources and fixing and maintaining the basics before we even consider anything else”, says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) and Councillor of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) on the eve of the Annual Climate Change and Environmental Management Indaba at the Nelson Mandela University.

Whilst the impact of a changing climate and rainfall patterns is complicated and threatens drought and hardship for the unprepared, the management of our natural resources is not difficult at all if the collective, and especially Local Governments, apply their minds, resources, and efforts. As an example, raw sewerage spewing from moribund waste water works countrywide has changed the river ecology and water quality of the Vaal and Olifants and almost all other river systems and estuaries in South Africa to levels that will be difficult to recover from. This has significant consequences for the quality of life of our citizens and South Africa’s food security.

A government can rightly be judged by the way it takes care of its precious natural resources, and water is by far the most important. The management of sewerage water is not a sexy subject, but by ignoring the functioning and maintenance of sewerage treatment plants at local municipalities they allowed the first domino to fall towards excessive misery and deprivation for communities already suffering from economic hardship and poverty.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and unfortunate disasters such as the Cholera outbreak will force authorities back to managing the basics. Similarly, the multimillion-Rand fine recently imposed on the Standerton Municipality by the Blue Scorpions for allowing raw sewerage to flow into the Vaal River may well be a turning point in an otherwise downward spiral.

Another promising example of potential environmental prosperity is the billions of Rand being made available by the Western world to assist South Africa in its transition to clean energy presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for South Africa to become a global leader in environmental management and at the same time allowing the country to prepare for what the changing climate will be throwing at us.


Feature image: Little hope the Vaal River’s sewage pollution crisis will end any time soon (Picture: Nneka Nwogwugwu).

Editor’s note: The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a Climate Change think- tank and public platform for environmental managers and conservation entities in the Southern Cape.