17 December 2004

Current water curbs just a drop in the ocean

South Africa faces "the certainty of prolonged and intense water restrictions", says Environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

He was speaking at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. He said the extinction of numerous plant and animal species and an increase in waterborne diseases were some of the problems climate change would impose on South Africa over the next 50 years which would have a major impact on South Africans' lifestyles.

"It has been projected that average temperatures in South Africa could rise between one-three percent by the middle of the century, and rainfall may be reduced by between five percent and 10 percent."

The increased temperatures and reduced rainfall would have a major impact.

Other anticipated problems included an estimated 20 percent drop in the country's grain production and an increase in skin cancer rates.

Van Schalkwyk said South Africa's vulnerability to climate change had seen plans to deal with it move to the forefront of government's programme of action. It remained "one of the most pressing challenges for both the developed and developing world", he said, urging "the strongest possible international action and global co-operation".

"At the same time we need also to mitigate climate change itself, and for this we require much more intensive research and development into renewable energy resources."

He said South Africa needed to reduce emissions while retaining economic growth and addressing "the challenges of poverty and unemployment in our communities".

"What we are dealing with is not only an environmental issue, it is centrally an economic, social, and sustainable development issue as well," Van Schalkwyk said.


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