26 July, 2016
Drier than ever in KZN as Umfolozi stops flowing
Umfolozi river, which courses through much of KwaZulu-Natal has dried up, as the drought in the province worsens.
This is having a huge effect on areas such as St Lucia, the home of iSimangaliso Wetlands Park - a 332,000ha park and a World Heritage Site - Mtubatuba, Hluhluwe, Umhlabuyalingana, Jozini and Hlabisa.
The drought is centred on Umkhanyakude District which the provincial government declared a disaster area in January.
However, the situation is getting worse.
On Monday, 11 July, a spokesperson for the Umkhanyakude district municipality, Mduduzi Dlamini, said dry conditions had led to the Umfolozi river drying up.
"This is affecting the supply of water to the areas of Mtubatuba, St Lucia and Nkolokotho. The municipality urges all residents within the district to use water sparingly. The district municipality will again start the rationing programme to all the areas that are affected such as Hluhluwe Town, Mtubatuba Town, Kwa-Msane and St Lucia areas," he said.
He also said water levels in the Jozini dam were very low. As a result the municipality had contracted water tankers to fetch water from eMpangeni dams to supply local communities.
"It must be noted that uMkhanyakude has hired a contractor, which will be drilling wells on the uMfolozi river beds. Whilst several bulk water supply schemes are constructed and upgraded, we urge communities to conserve water," Dlamini said.
Mandla Buthelezi, a farmer and deputy president of the National African Farmers Union, said farmers were initially pleased when the government announced a sum of R352m to assist farmers affected by the drought, but that they now wonder if the money will trickle down to farmers who have lost livestock.
"We doubt whether the government will help those whose livestock have died during the current drought. We have people here who had invested their whole life's savings on cows and other livestock. With this drought they have lost everything," he said.
Spokesperson for Ezemvelo Wildlife, Musa Mntambo, said the drought threatened to undo efforts to build a solid tourism industry in the region. However, so far, wild animals have been largely unaffected.
"The animals in our game reserves have not been affected so far because we have enlisted the services of water tankers to bring water to our game reserves and we have also built our own boreholes. We have been on an educational drive to tell our communities and people who visit our game parks to use water sparingly," Mntambo said.
Local lodges and B&Bs have also resorted to drilling their own boreholes after municipal taps ran dry.
Said Johan van der Merwe, the GM of the Sodwana Bay Lodge: "Our guest cannot stay in our facilities if there is no water. That is why we invested in building our own boreholes. Now water supply is fine and none of our clients have cancelled due to water shortages."