South Africa experiencing effects of climate change

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Zodidi Mhlana and Solly Makganoto

With some parts of the country experiencing a devastating drought, scientists say that the effects of climate change in the country were visible.

Dr Henry Roman, director of environmental services and technologies at the Science and Technology department said that erratic weather patterns showed South Africa’s vulnerability to climate change.

“For townships, it’s not just drought, it’s flood effects because our cities are designed to remove water as fast as possible. What is happening now, when it rains and there’s a thunderstorm in Gauteng, it’s very intense for a very short period and it’s a lot of water. You can see it in the townships in particular, they get affected because of the flooding events, they are not designed to take the water way. You go to Alexandra, the Juskei river is right there and when it breaks its banks, the people are right there, it’s insane and that’s what’s happening now,” he said.

Dr Roman was speaking during the launch of an atlas on Wednesday in Johannesburg which monitor the effects of climate change.

Dr Roman said communities living in flood prone zones were more vulnerable to changing weather patterns.

“Don’t live next to a flood zone and the municipalities know where the zones are, if you engage with them, they can advise you where not to live. People live in areas because they are vulnerable and they want the government to build them proper houses, so it’s politically difficult to deal with,” he said.

For over two years, many parts of the country were in throes of the worst drought recorded since 1997.

Three provinces including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape province were recently declared disaster areas due to the current drought.

According to the South African Weather Service, 2015 was the driest year South Africa had experienced since 1904.

Dr Rebecca Garland, a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said developing plans that mitigate effects of climate change was crucial.

“At the CSIR, we are developing an earth system model so that we can do a better job in projecting the futures of Africa. Africa is very vulnerable to climate change, already we’ve seen warming globally. Of course, our populations, demographics and socio economic are also contributing to our vulnerabilities. We need develop plans to deal with the negative effects of climate change and protect our communities in terms of going forward. The model projections do seem to show that droughts would be a regular occurrence in the future,” Dr Garland added.