PARLIAMENT - Government has allocated R6 billion in the 2018/19 financial year for drought relief, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced in his budget speech on Wednesday

“Severe drought conditions are affecting large parts of the country, and it is placing extreme strain on the supply of water no nearly 4 million people in the City of Cape Town,” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said after tabling the budget in Parliament.

While much strain has been placed on water resources in the City of Cape Town and other areas in the Western Cape province, some smaller towns in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, including the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, have also been affected.

Gigaba said water conservation needs be prioritised as the country would continue to experience lower than expected rainfall and water scarcity.

The minister said government would try and mitigate potential job losses in farming communities by temporarily increasing the intake for the Working for Water programme.

“Allocation for drought response funds for water infrastructure projects and EPWP [expanded public works programme] will be made in the adjustment budget," Gigaba said.

"To provide short term assistance, this budget includes relief grants for provinces and municipalities worth R473 million in 2018/19.”

He added that if necessary other conditional grants could also be reprioritized to respond to disasters.

Government would also make sure it increased dam capacity in the country. To this effect, Gigaba said R91.6 billion would be spent on extending, upgrading and maintain water infrastructure. Over the same period R34 billion would be invested in water services, largely through municipal grants.

The investments needed to be complemented by a change in water usage patterns by South Africans and better management of water resources.

Gigaba added: “National government will continue to work with municipalities to respond effectively to the water crisis. Government stands ready to provide financial assistance where necessary.”

- African News Agency