South Africa

BY Cecilia GIMENO VEIRA, EEB4, S6FRD.

South Africa is facing huge problems with coal and water. Since 2010, the country has been confronted with a water crisis and mining activities have been harming the health of inhabitants and creating pollution.

Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, faces two major threats (both forecasted to have devastating effects on the city). The rains, ever so crucial for the functioning of the city, do not fall anymore; throughout the last three years they have barely graced the land. Secondly, along with the airmasses, the Benguela Current cools the sea. This does not allow moisture to accumulate, hence the arid climate.

Day Zero

In April 2018, the city reached “Day Zero”, which meant that there was no more water. Tanks of the precious resource had to be sent from Europe to Cape Town. That same day, the government shut the water supply for twelve hours; this caused numerous industries to close down. Then they gave each citizen fifty liters of water a day. Showers had to be limited to two minutes. In hotels, they stopped filling the pools; in restaurants – patrons were advised to refrain from flushing the toilet and to use hand sanitizers instead of running water to wash their hands. Washing cars and filling fountains was forbidden. There were even competitions for “Who had the dirtiest shirt”. They used a lot of recycled water, which came to be called grey water.

Today, there is more rain and the limitations are less strict—nonetheless they some are still enforced as water is especially scarce in Cape Town.

Protests against mining

Since 2010, people in South Africa have been protesting because of the consequences of the mining activities. Mining creates a lot of air pollution into the air and leads to water containing high concentrations of different toxic chemical substances. The water that flows into the ocean has terrible impact on marine animals. South Africa has good soil for agriculture, but now the activities of coal mining have led to a high concentration of heavy metals in the soil. Food is contaminated and has led to death of some people. Farmers can no longer produce untainted food so there is a national food crisis.

Consequences

These kinds of pollution have led to all types of cancer, respiratory problems, cardiovascular problems, and have ultimately resulted in numerous deaths. The impacts are even visible on children, new born babies, and (in some occasions) fetuses. The consequences are irreversible: mental retardation, loss of intelligence, congenital malformation. The World Health Organization tried to stop these problems in vain. Nowadays, the situation is the same; coal mining has a huge impact on South Africa, but the mining activities have not decreased. Regarding food, water and children’s wellbeing — nothing has been done.

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