Scientists share research into water and health challenges at science forum
Pretoria - Research into the importance of water in the wake of Covid-19 has sparked interest among scientists across the globe since the outbreak of the pandemic.
This became evident on Friday during a virtual Science Forum South Africa 2020 discussion where various scientists shared their research into water and health challenges in their respective countries.
Dr Eunice Ubomba Jaswa of the Water Research Commission talked about research into emerging water contaminants such as HIV drugs and coronavirus.
"Emerging contaminants are our big focus. We need to know what is in our resource and how that is going to affect our treatment to ensure safe water for potable use and for various uses," Jaswa said.
She singled out the presence of ARVs in water as one of the emerging contaminants under study.
"The occurrence of HIV ARVs in our water system is very key for us.
“We have to look at what the presence of ARVs is in our water. We are now going to look at the health assessment of those drugs in our water and not only in our water, but African water resources," she said.
She said the same study would embrace what the world was seeing with Covid-19 occurrence in water and in the clinical presentation.
Jaswa also talked about the impact of climate change on water-scarce countries like South Africa.
“We have a strong climate change programme, and we have also been tapping into that to make sure it generates knowledge that could improve our water security as well as water quality changes, especially when you think of extreme weather events like your flooding and drought which South Africa is prone to," she said.
Kenyan water researcher Rispa Oleke talked about what her country was doing in addressing water and health problems.
She said: "Kenya is one of the continent’s water-scarce countries. Although we have a lot of water resources, the accessibility of the water is a problem in terms of the infrastructure and the demand in the country. Kenya suffers periodic floods and droughts because of the climate change impact.”
Oleke, who worked for a coastal and marine resource organisation in Mombasa, said the availability of water in the coastal region was threatened because of climate change.
“The government has avenues for water availability, although it is not enough to meet the demand of the people.”
She said Mombasa was working together with the city of eThekwini to solve the problem of solid waste during the rainy season.
There was a problem of boreholes being drilled a few metres from houses in Mombasa, causing flooding in the event of heavy rains.
Water demand was high in Kenya, but it improved during the Covid-19 because the government regularly provided free water to communities, Jaswa said.
Professor Narnia Bohler of the Human Sciences Research Council said: “It is always good to learn from one another, and the Indian Ocean Marine Association encourages this mutual sharing and mutual learning, and Kenya is a very active member of the association.”