JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Tanks are great, but pipes are better. Praised for nearly halving the number of its citizens without safe water, South Africa’s infrastructure remains insufficient for much of the nation. Its crumbling apartheid-generation plumbing still leaves 5 million people without proper drinking water and nearly 15 million without basic sanitation facilities, IRIN News reports.
While its tap water is world renowned, officials from the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry worry about the outbreaks of water-borne diseases in neighboring countries, such as Zimbabwe. They emphasize that updating infrastructure is crucial to maintaining and improving the nation’s health. With dangerously high rates of E. coli and fecal matter found in several of South Africa’s rivers, the country has already lost thousands of dollars in tourism.
Dr Roman Tandlich, a lecturer and former fellow of the Rhodes University’s Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality, says that, “[The] backlog in service delivery is huge in South Africa.” He cites a lack of funds as well as skilled labor.
With the 2015 deadline for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals drawing near, South Africa is already set to halve the percent of its population without safe water. But just half is not enough for the nation, authorities maintain. And with aging infrastructure and polluted surface water, how long can the accomplishment endure?
There are no precedents for dealing with several of the problems, Tandlich admits. “Mistakes have been made in the past,” he says, “but it also has to be stated that some challenges are so unique that no easy answers or parallels to draw on exist.”
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Source: IRIN News