350africa.org, EarthLore and Womin call on the South African government to stop the issuing of water licenses and declare a climate change state of emergency. Thursday 14th of January 2016, The Department of Water and Sanitation granted and approved Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) an Integrated Water Use License (IWUL) for its Makhado Project and renewed the license for Vele coal mine for a further 20 years. All this despite immense objections from affected communities and the extreme drought that South Africa especially the region of Limpopo is currently facing.
“The culture of government’s denial tendencies has led to the undermining of the water crisis, which is no longer looming but a daily reality to many communities facing scarcity,” said Lerato Letebele, Communications Manager at 350africa.org
Governments support and commitment to the IWUL further cripples the Limpopo province and communities as they have been experiencing severe water shortages and extremely high demand for the scarce commodity. The thirst continues in South Africa as the region faces a bleak summer where weather conditions and unpredictable temperatures cause chaos. Dams and reservoirs are running dry. Maize, undoubtedly the most important grain crop in the country is threatened with the continued drought.
“Household water saving tips have bombarded the media space in the last few months. The mining industry is the third largest consumer of water in the country, behind farming and household users. However, whereas the water used in farming and households cycle back into drinking water reserves the water used in mining is irretrievably contaminated. Acid Mine Drainage serves to further contaminate downstream sources” says Juliana Thornton, Head of Partnerships at EarthLore. Mining companies must answer as to why they continue to plunder essential resources for profit gains.
“This is a life and death crisis, in particular for women in rural areas, as it goes without saying that water is life. The current situation is more serious than we have been led to believe. Government needs to place a moratorium on all new licenses during this critical time ” said Samantha Hargreaves, Regional Coordinator at womin.org.za
In addition, the El Nino effect continues to contribute to these major weather changes, and South Africa has not been spared. The severe droughts are part and parcel of this natural phenomenon that is made worse with climate change.
As is experienced in other parts of the African continent, South Africa will be exposed to worst-case scenarios such as dehydration, famine, spread of diseases due to compromised sanitation, crop failure and increasing debt in the agriculture sector.
A climate change state of emergency must put in place measures and precautions to ensure that major industries such as mining are playing their part in the preservation of these limited resources, as they are the largest users and polluters.
“It is indisputable that fossil fuel driven global warming is causing climate change that has a knock on effect on people’s health and wellbeing. South Africa needs to show leadership in the fight against climate change and strive for a Fossil Free Africa,” added Letebele.
Lerato Letebele – 350 Africa and Arab World Communications Manager