‘Day Zero’ water crisis looms on South Africa’s Eastern Cape

Author

Ryan Lenora Brown

Source(s)
Washington Post, the

Activists in Gqeberha have long warned of “day zero” — the moment when the taps in this South African coastal city will run dry. Years of severe drought and municipal mismanagement have edged Gqeberha closer and closer to that reality. Now, day zero is nearly here.

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Four years ago, when Cape Town announced it was nearing its own day zero, the world turned to watch. Headlines blared that this was the first time in modern history that a major world city would be without running water. Gqeberha, by contrast, has received little international attention.

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Since 2015, Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, has been in the grip of a historic drought. But the city estimates it also loses about a third of its water supply to leaks in its piping, and has a backlog of about 3,000 unfixed leaks, according to Luvuyo Bangazi, spokesperson for the municipality’s joint operations crisis committee.

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Like many crises in South Africa, Gqeberha’s water shortage is also a study in inequality. Although rolling water outages have affected the entire area, residents of the city’s walled suburbs can offset the impact by drilling boreholes or simply buying bottled water. But much of Nelson Mandela Bay’s population lives in townships, the under-resourced, apartheid-era communities originally built around South African cities to house Black workers. These areas still have the least functional infrastructure and the most dense populations.

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