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Water tankers bring relief to dry communities

Written by: Silusapho Nyanda

With hand washing and general hygiene essential to combatting the coronavirus, government has put emergency measures in place to assist communities without access to water.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, government is working to bring relief to water scarce communities. The Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (HSWS) has delivered tanks and water-carting trucks to communities across the country.

By mid-April, 14 737 tanks and 1 239 water-carrying trucks had been distributed to different communities across the country. HSWS is working with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to deliver temporary water services to communities in need.

Water and sanitation has launched a command centre, based at the Rand Water offices in Johannesburg, to co-ordinate the supply of water to all corners of the country. 

Speaking after visiting the command centre, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 400 000 tanks available for HSWS to buy will help people maintain good hygiene.

“We have urged people to practise social distance but the personal hygiene side is also something that we must focus on by getting people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds,” he said.

“The command centre makes sure that all the water tanks that have been procured are taken to places that have been identified as in need. Municipalities will be responsible for identifying the places where the water tanks will be located,” says HSWS Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Sisulu says they have identified 2 000 communities that will receive water through trucks and tanks. She says the department is ensuring water supply to communities not yet served by a formal water service. “This will include providing communal water storage with water collection points, which will be filled by means of water carting in the interim,” she says.

In addition to this, Minister Sisulu called on private companies that drill boreholes to help with the provision of water to communities. “We are appealing to borehole-drilling companies across the country to extend a helping hand by drilling boreholes for communities which are in desperate need of water,” she says.

HSWS is also providing hand-washing facilities in public places, such as taxi ranks. 

Minister Sisulu’s department is also planning to move people from densely populated areas. The de-densification programme will see people from 29 densely populated informal settlements being moved by HSWS.

“These informal settlements have a high propensity for the spread of COVID-19. The spread could get out of control and we could find ourselves overwhelmed if we do not do something as a matter of urgency. As such, we have decided that we need to resettle some of the residents to ease congestion.

“These are in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. I can confirm that we have identified 17 land parcels for resettlement purposes should the need arise. Of these, 13 land parcels are state owned and four pieces of land parcels are privately owned. We have already started preparing some areas for resettlement,” she says.

The plan will be implemented by resettling households; building temporary residential units and using temporary accommodation that is immediately available, with the approval of the Department of Health.

People can call 0800 200 200 to report areas that are experiencing water shortages.

Tanks per province (as at 17 April 2020):

  • Western Cape: 526
  • Eastern Cape: 4 678
  • Northern Cape: 507
  • North West: 1 285
  • Free State: 1 217
  • Limpopo: 440
  • Gauteng: 1 785
  • Mpumalanga: 299
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 4 000

The number of water-carrying trucks that have  been delivered to each province is (as at 17 April 2020):

  • Western Cape: 53
  • Eastern Cape: 171
  • Northern Cape: 70
  • North West: 145
  • Free State: 134
  • Limpopo: 34
  • Gauteng: 46
  • Mpumalanga: 59
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 527