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[OPINION] Western Cape World War Water

“The third world war is at our gate, and it will be about water, if we don’t do something about this crisis. These walks are to raise awareness - this year we covered 17 countries, and in nine of them there were displaced people. Where terrorism is active, there is usually a scarcity of water. So many people in the Middle East and African countries are moving to places like Europe, in part because of water scarcity - after forced migration comes, tension, conflict, and terrorism. Where terrorism is active, there is usually a scarcity of water. Look at Syria - a long time ago, it had very good agriculture, but then Turkey built a dam that changed things. It’s a similar story with Libya. If we want a safe future, we need to start conserving water.”

These are the words of Rajendra Singh – the water-man of India.

Thirty-five years ago Singh founded a non-governmental organisation called Tarun Bharat Sangh (Young India Organisation). It focuses on community-based water harvesting and water management initiatives in an area of Rajasthan classified as a semi-desert state. Singh’s work has earned him several awards – including the Stockholm Water Prize in 2015.

Perhaps what Cape Town needs is a Rajendra Singh. It’s a stretch, but it’s also a last resort since we’ve run out of ideas and well, the implementation plan reads like the script of an epic disaster drama.

For example, Patricia de Lille’s vision of a dry future is to collect water in buckets under supervision of soldiers. That is where we’re at, well, at least as of March next year, which is when the city anticipates we will reach ground zero: no usable dams, official disaster – and something that many people seem to be ignoring… disease.

But there are few phases left before we reach military supervision. Two steps to be exact since we’re already in phase one: The Critical Stage, which involves, as you should know by now, water rationing. 87 litres per day is the allowance for individuals. The end of the critical stage, however, looms large and here’s where the script of that drama feature film gets a bit scary and hectic.

Phase two: Disaster Stage

Predefined water allocations will be able to be collected from designated sites. More extreme rationing falls into place, with water supplies to the home possibly being cut off completely. Law, order and supervision will be provided by the police and the military who will throw their careful eyes and weapons over our bent backs while we’re scraping dregs. A walk in the dry and arid park really compared to the next step…

Phase three: Extreme Disaster Stage

Think of words like system failure. Depleted dams and supplies. Zero surface drinking water. Enough said.

Nothing is fine. Everything is a mess. There is sickness, lack of access to healthcare, lower-grade food, animal death and potentially nutritional (and other) diseases on the way. How come no one is talking about this? When will hear about this phase, City of Cape Town? Or will you give users the full picture and lay out of your action plan a couple of months before ground zero again?

Until there’s an act of community effort – much like the organisation lead by Singh, it’s every human for themselves.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment.

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