Summit to address drought-hit Chris Hani District

By Thando Cezula

Queenstown - Drought-stricken Chris Hani District municipality in the Eastern Cape plans to hold a summit to discuss the worsening plight of residents, businesses and farmers.

The municipality, which stretches from its western-most border with the Free State to Engcobo in the east and includes towns like Queenstown and Cradock, is one of the areas hardest hit by the prevailing drought in the Eastern Cape.

Municipality communications officer, Thobeka Mqamelo, said it is fitting that the Water and Rural Development summit be held in the municipality.

"The summit's main purpose is to get commitments of financial resources and other forms of support from government. Financial assistance from government is key to implementing intervention plans in response to the drought," said Mqamelo.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that some municipalities in the district have had to enforce stringent measures to control water usage by the public.

"In Queenstown, the economic hub of the district, the situation has become so bad that the local municipality has had to impose water restrictions," said Mqamelo.

She said the drought has had a big impact on business, the environment and service delivery.

Border Kei Chamber of Business chairperson, Bongani Mkhatshwa, was encouraged by the municipality's decision to host the summit.

"There is a definite crisis in the district. The Queenstown municipality has decided to shut off water at night to counter the effects of the drought," said Mkhatshwa, a Queenstown resident.

Mqamelo said the municipality was aware of the situation in Queenstown and was already looking at measures to supplement the town's water supply.

"We are considering using water from dams in surrounding areas to boost Queenstown's water supply. However, this is a huge project that will require nearly R230 million to complete, money which we don't have in our budget," she said.

Themed "Mobilising Resources and Commitments to Address the Crisis," the summit will look at strategies to deal with water challenges, environmental challenges with regard to land use management and rehabilitation, and soliciting funding from government.

Mqamelo said a definite date for the summit has not been announced yet, only that it would take place before the end of the year. - BuaNews