South Africa Cape Town drought climate change

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South Africa - Water crisis in Cape Town
Climate change leads the entire area towards a dramatic drought
Photos: Bruno Zanzottera
Over the last three years Cape Town, the third most populated city in South Africa, has experienced an extremely serious drought caused primarily by climate change, which, together with corruption, political instability and an increase in the population, has in turn caused a major water crisis: for a number of weeks, for example, there was no water to be found in the supermarkets and the Theewaterskloof, the largest of the six artificial reservoirs that supply the city, had been reduced to a tenth of its total capacity of 480 billion litres.

The 'Day Zero' of no water was originally envisioned for April 2018, but thanks to the restrictions imposed by the municipality and to the light rains over the last two months a bit of time has been bought. Nevertheless, the problem has not been resolved: the dams still have not reached the appropriate level of water and restrictions on water use are still in effect. The crisis has had severe social repercussions: if a household situated in one of the wealthier residential areas exceeds its daily limit, it must simply pay a fine; in the inner-city, however, meters have been installed which block supply until the following day. These inequalities have increased unease in large segments of the population and, in the meanwhile, the townships have truly imposed 'Day Zero': the municipality in fact closed all public wells where, every day, people line up to fill their buckets to take back to their waterless houses. In addition, the cost of water has gone up, thus further impacting the poorest segments of society.

This is a crisis that has taught, and continues to teach, the inhabitants of Cape Town a lot. They have begun to organise themselves in order to face the day when there will no longer be any water, a resource the most affluent citizens have always taken for granted, as opposed to those who live in the shantytowns. On the other hand, the government has constructed desalinization plants and launched projects for the creation of new dams. In this way the South African city is set to become an example: climate change is, in fact, becoming of interest to the entire globe and Cape Town could be the first in a long series of metropolises that will have to deal with the same problems.

Text by Valentina G. Milani
South Africa Cape Town drought climate change
International photojournalism