Waste not, want not

April 2003 News

This month's water and wastewater feature highlights some of the new technologies that are available to companies that are involved with the distribution of this vital resource. At the 2003 Siemens User Group Forum, a system integrator described how in the city of Windhoek, within four days of water entering the sewerage system it is back in the taps of the consumer, purified and ready for use. Here, technology has enabled the successful conservation of renewable resources. But technology is not all that is needed to make things happen... so is the political will of Africa's leaders to have peace on the continent.

The recent peace-making efforts in The Democratic Republic of Congo, by South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, will hopefully bring to an end a devastating civil war that has ravaged the country since 1998. Reuters reports that at one stage "six foreign armies were drawn into the free-for-all for Congo's mineral wealth, and two million people are believed to have died, mainly from hunger and disease".

A closer look at this gigantic African country reveals a country immensely rich in mineral and other natural resources. In a recent interview, the Centre for Strategic Studies highlighted some of the regional importance of this SADC member-state. Amongst other things, the DRC is seen as a future source of water and hydro-generated electricity for South Africa.

At first thought, the piping of water to South Africa all the way from Central Africa beggars belief, but closer investigation reveals that the average consumption per capita of the South African population is on a steep climb. This increase is in part due to the success of the government's much-needed projects to provide basic water and sanitation to the entire population. Africa as a whole has a staggering task ahead of it in terms of supplying these needs to its people.

"In Africa, over 300 million people do not have access to safe water, and an even larger number of over 500 million are without adequate sanitation," said Water and Forestry Affairs Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, at a recent conference on addressing the water and sanitation challenge held in Kyoto. "An equal number of people are food insecure and malnourished in spite of the availability of large underutilised agricultural lands and irrigation potentials. The utilisation of renewable energy resources is not more than 3% of the potential on the continent."

These figures are almost unbelievable they are so big. The implications of inadequate or non-existent flood control are not even taken into account into these figures, the results of which can be seen in the recent devastating floods in Mozambique.

One wonders that the president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, could not even find the time to make it to the signing of the new peace accord at Sun City, South Africa. To put the significance of the signing into perspective, in the deal, the government, rebel groups and opposition parties adopted an interim constitution and agreed that a transitional government would rule the country for up to two and a half years until the first democratic elections in four decades.

There is no doubt that before the basic needs of Africa's people can be met, all the leaders of Africa will need to find the political will to make peace a reality. They will need to find the will to make Africa and not their back pockets the top priority. They will need to find the will to stop Western countries from pillaging Africa's natural resources without putting something meaningful back into Africa.

Graeme Bell

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control

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