from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN – RESEARCHERS are concerned over decreased expenditure on water security research despite serious drought problems across Southern Africa.
The concern raised at the African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference and exhibition held in South Africa.
South Africa is a water scarce country, yet expenditure on research and development for water security does not reflect this picture.
Dr Hlamulo Makelane, research fellow at the Nelson Mandela University, said funding for water research declined over the last five years, which she said was highly problematic.
“Funding for research and development declined by 45 percent in the last five years. This is scary because as we speak the country (South Africa) has a water road map and I hope we will be putting up more money,” she said.
According to her, research and development have a direct impact on water resource management and promotes training and capacity building in the sector.
“It can lead to creative solutions and help influence how people and society behave,” Makelane said.
Makelane also stressed the need for intersectoral funding between government and the private sector for more progress towards water security.
Makelane reminded delegates South Africa is a water scarce country thus needs to improve demand management, storage and protect water sources more effectively.
“This all starts with investing in research because this is how we will know how to plan and decide what dams and reservoirs to build where,” she added.
There are reportedly more than 2 billion people worldwide in countries facing severe water constraints.
Africa is no exception.
Gift Sageme, Chief Executive Officer of Malawi’s Central Region Water Board, also underscored the importance of water security being integral to all facets of society.
He expressed surprise that governments tend to put the water sector behind other sectors like energy, roads, agriculture and health.
“What they (governments) don’t realise, however, is that without water no sector can survive,” Sageme said.
– CAJ News