Friday, November 28, 2008

A leading South African scientist has warned that gross underinvestment in water management has left it at risk of a cholera outbreak

Five people have died from cholera in South Africa, after crossing from Zimbabwe, where a recent outbreak has killed more than 300 people. Anthony Turton has said that unless South Africa increased its spending on water, it was heading for disaster. In the decades since the 1980s, spending on treatment works, pump stations, reservoirs and other items has fallen sharply. In the 1980s it hit 40,000m rand ($4,080m). By the 1990s this had fallen to around 17,000m rand ($1,734m) and then to about 4,000m rand ($408m) in the 2000s. This fall, says Turton, was matched by a skills shortage. Qualified engineers, most of whom were white, were not replaced by younger, men and women. Many are now close to retirement age, and younger whites, says Turton, have been discouraged by affirmative action and many have simply left the country. As a result, Turton argues, South Africa is faced with increasing problems of water quality.

Related: Cholera kills 412 in Zimbabwe, spreads across borders: UN

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