By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone - The entire Southern African region is sitting on a ticking time bomb, as it will be completely dry by 2025, a report by a prominent French scientist has warned.
Professor Gilles Boeuf of College de France and professor at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, who delivered a lecture titled ‘Biodiversity under stress due to climate change’, at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg, recently warned that the current shortage of water in the Western Cape is just the tip of the iceberg.
Boeuf, who has co-authored over 400 scientific articles as well as several book chapters, observed that South Africa and the entire southern African region would be without water in the next seven years.
“By 2025, South Africa and the region of southern Africa, which includes countries such as Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, will be completely dry by then,” he said.
The professor, who is also a scientific adviser to the French ministry of environment, energy and sea, added that “There will be no water at all and what is happening in the Western Cape region of South Africa is just the tip of the iceberg and something more drastic and wider is still yet to come.”
Touching on a topical issue, Boeuf further warned that the current shortage of water in the Western Cape was due to climate change, which people needed to address and take steps to reverse or the inevitable would happen and that was the desertification of the whole region of southern Africa.
Reports indicate that a drought in the Western Cape Province began in 2015 and is resulting in a severe water shortage in the region, most notably affecting the city of Cape Town. With dam levels predicted to decline to critically low levels, the city announced plans for “Day Zero,” when the municipal water supply will largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city to run out of water.
Boeuf noted that humans needed to live at peace with nature and ensure they secured the biodiversity of the earth to escape the weather phenomenon that is currently taking shape.
These, he said, are warning signs and humans need to heed them and take practical steps to ensure they preserve biodiversity, as it is their only hope of survival.
The renowned French academic’s observations are supported by researchers at the University of Kwazulu Natal, Water Research Commission of South Africa, University of Cape Town and International Water Management Institute who also warned that “SADC water and energy sectors are under increasing pressure due to population growth and agricultural and industrial development”.
The researchers are Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, Sylvester Mpandeli, Amos Madhlopa, Albert T. Modi, Gerhard Backeberg and Luxon Nhamo.
In their paper titled “Southern Africa’s Water–Energy Nexus: Towards Regional Integration and Development” they noted that climate change is also negatively impacting on the region’s water and energy resources.
“As the majority of the SADC’s population lives in poverty, regional development and integration are underpinned by water and energy security as the watercourses in the region are transboundary in nature,” the scholars said.
Their academic paper reviewed the region’s water and energy resources and recommends policies based on the water–energy nexus approach.
According to the researchers, water resources governance provides a strong case to create a water-energy nexus platform to support regional planning and integration as SADC countries share similar climatic and hydrological conditions.
“However, there has been a gap between water and energy sector planning in terms of policy alignment and technical convergence. These challenges hinder national policies on delivering economic and social development goals, as well as constrain the regional goal of greater integration,” the researchers said.
They added regional objectives on sustainable energy and access to clean water for all can only be achieved through the recognition of the water-energy nexus, championed in an integrated and sustainable manner.
They recommended that the shared nature of water and energy resources requires far more transboundary water-energy nexus studies to be done in the context of regional integration and policy formulation.