Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Another province has officially been declared a disaster area due to drought - just as another municipality battles crippling water shortages, with its dam water levels below 23% of capacity.

Northern Cape premier Zamani Saul and co-operative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs MEC Bentley Vaas officially declared the country’s largest province a disaster area due to drought.

“In terms of section 41(1) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002), and after consultation with members of the executive council, I declare a provincial state of disaster due to the continuing debilitating drought,” reads the notice published in the provincial gazette last Friday, which Saul co-signed with Vaas.

Saul’s announcement was followed on Monday by the extension of another declaration of a local state of disaster by the Kouga local municipality.

Municipal manager Charl du Plessis announced that the drought-stricken Eastern Cape municipality was extending a declaration of a state of disaster, which had lengthened by a month due to the prevailing drought. Two days before Christmas, the municipality also extended another declaration.

The Kouga Dam had water levels measured at 22.75% on Monday.

The national water and sanitation department has since designed an emergency drought mitigation plan to moderate the dire effects of drought in the affected provinces.

Short-term interventions will be implemented over a three-to-six-month period starting next month, and the department hopes it will lay the foundation for the medium- and long-term interventions.

The department has also reprioritised more than R600 million of its finances towards assisting in the short-term drought interventions, while the National Treasury has also allowed it to use emergency procurement measures in drought-stricken areas.

Earlier this month, the department announced that dam water levels in the Northern Cape had declined from 74.6% to 72.8%.

Delivering the ANC’s annual January 8 statement in Kimberley two weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country needed to act decisively to protect its scarce water resources, ensure that all have equitable access and respond to the devastating effects of successive droughts - essential to ensure the economic development and realisation of the constitutional right of all South Africans to sufficient food and water.

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has so far pledged R300m for drought relief in the Northern Cape, which will be used for finding alternative sources of water such as drilling boreholes and introducing water technology on farms.

Political Bureau