As the water crisis deepens, people with disabilities can only hope that the City of Cape Town will make special arrangements for them at the “secured collection points”.
Cape Town is flanked on both sides by the ocean. It is the Mother city; it has been a safe harbour and replenishing stopover for travellers for centuries, supplying fresh water, among other essentials, to vessels that explored the spice route and serviced the slave trade. However, here is a harsh reality: we are running out of water in most parts of our coastal provinces in South Africa.
I’m not a panic-monger, but from where I am sitting, I can see very little that is being done and no practical plan in place to ensure that we will have a sustainable source of water for the foreseeable future in Cape Town. Various options are being explored, such as drilling into large underground dams, called aquifers, and expensive desalination plants, to supplement the existing quantity of water we have left.
Yet, the truth is that we are facing the worst drought in 100 years and it will take a lot of rain to replenish our dams. Okay, we still have about 18 percent of usable water left in our dams but a ‘day zero’ timeline is adjusted ever so often. The mayor and the city council have some plans in place to provide drinking water at secured collection points in the next few months, but will they be effective? Will they be safe? And will they be accessible in the true sense of the word?
I cannot see myself pushing my wheelchair and balancing a large enough container for water on my lap or anywhere else on my person. However, this will be the scene in a couple of weeks. We can only hope that special arrangements will be made to accommodate people who will have difficulty in collecting sufficient water for their use.
It is encouraging to see that the chimpanzees in Monkey Town in Somerset West are posing in their enclosure with bottled water, nogal. I wonder if other species will be as fortunate as they are. These monkeys rely on the owners of the establishment for their water supply and the owners raise their revenue solely from the entry fees. They don’t get any support from the government.
Is it the responsibility of the authorities to ensure we have access to the life-sustaining liquid? Or are we left to our own devices? It would be unfair of me to focus only on persons with disabilities, especially quadriplegics or wheelchair users, and their use of water, of course, since every living being needs water to survive.
I feel that some of us require more water than the average person. We are forever encouraged to drink more water, because it’s good for the bladder, kidneys and circulation. Incontinence is a way of life, which means extra loads of washing of bedding and clothes. Our other bladder management equipment – catheters, bed and leg bags – all require water for washing and rinsing.
Even if we don’t live with large families, we employ people to assist us or we live in communal homes. This means more mouths to feed, to keep hydrated and cleansed. So, beside the usual essential consumption of water for cooking, bathing, drinking and cleaning, it all adds up to a large amount of water required for our survival.
Yet, we have been included in the count with the general population. I hope that we are taken into consideration when the mayor and her advisory team calculated the average usage of 87 l per person per day! Either this is true or we are left out to dry. And I do not want to single out any one person, but someone has to take responsibility for this.
Though much attention has been focused on the City of Cape Town’s attempts to manage the water crisis, in terms of the Water Act of 1998, the national government is the “public trustee” of the nation’s water resources and must ensure that water is “protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner, for the benefit of all persons”.
“The national government, acting through the minister, has the power to regulate the use, flow and control of all water in the republic,” according to the Act. So, we know who to turn to and who to hold to account. However, we need to play our part too. We need to adjust and adapt to the new normal and not only look to the government for support.
As global citizens we are exposed to climate change. We need to think innovatively and come up with unique solutions to all the challenges we will face. Let’s try to use water and all other natural resources sparingly throughout the country and plan ahead for our inclusive future.
Raven Benny is the chairperson of QASA. He has been a C5, 6 and 7 quadriplegic since 2000. He is married with five children, is mad about wheelchair rugby and represented South Africa in 2003 and 2005. He also plays for Maties. email: firstname.lastname@example.org