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Western Cape declared disaster zone amid drought

Premier Helen Zille signed the declaration last week in response to the worst drought the province has experienced since 1904.

FILE: The Theewaterskloof Dam near Cape Town. Picture: Aletta Harrison/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape has been declared a disaster area.

Premier Helen Zille signed the declaration last week in response to the worst drought the province has experienced since 1904.

It's expected to be gazetted later this week.

The disaster will be classified for three months and can be extended if necessary.

Zille's spokesperson Michael Mpofu said: “The province is now empowered by the law to make certain decisions more swiftly, especially if it relates to reprioritising funding that would normally go to the other things, but is now being redirected because there is an urgent need to deal with an impending crisis. It means we are taking greater control of a situation that could potentially go deeper if it is not dealt with in a proper way.”

Meanwhile, long-term climate forecasts for the Western Cape indicate the region will become drier.

A week ago, delegates from various scientific institutions gathered in Cape Town to discuss the province's rainfall patterns.

Scientists revealed rainfall in the province from February to April was less than the same period last year.

The Alliance for Collaboration on Climate and Earth Systems Science, the South African Weather Service and the University of Cape Town participated in the discussion on Western Cape weather patterns.

Experts warn the soil moisture deficit is so severe now that rain water will immediately be sucked up by dehydrated soil.

The CSIR's Doctor Neville Sweijd said the research community was trying to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts in the region.

“Even if we get average rainfall in July, the total season might be below.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)