South Africa declares drought a ‘national disaster’

People collect drinking water from pipes fed by an underground spring in St. James, Cape Town. The city is in the grip of a three-year-long drought. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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South Africa declares drought a ‘national disaster’

CAPE TOWN: South Africa on Tuesday declared a “national disaster” over a drought that has ravaged parts of the country and threatened to leave homes in Cape Town without running water.
The government said it had elevated the drought to a “national disaster” after reassessing its “magnitude and severity.”
Cape Town is in the grip of a three-year-long drought as sparse winter rains have failed to bring relief, and dam levels have dropped dangerously low.
Rains over the weekend raised hopes that the situation would improve, but the downpours were neither heavy nor long enough to have an impact on the situation.
The statement, published in the official government gazette, means that the national government is now responsible for tackling the issue and ensuring relief efforts.
South Africa’s second city is now facing the prospect of having to turn its taps off under a so-called “Day Zero” scenario to conserve the city’s remaining water supplies.
Most Cape Town residents would be forced to queue at communal taps at 200 water points — likely under police or military guard — to collect a daily ration of 25 liters (6.6 US gallons), half the amount allowed now.
At the start of February, the target for personal daily water usage was slashed from 87 liters to 50 liters.
A single toilet flush uses nine liters. It is hoped that usage cuts will buy the city time to find a solution — or for the rains of the southern winter to refill depleted dams.
Reducing household use, which accounts for 70 percent of water consumption, has been prioritized over slashing industry’s usage.
On Tuesday, the predicted date for “Day Zero” was pushed back to June 4 after consumption cuts.
The widespread drought has gripped swathes of the nation’s south and west.
Opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane praised residents of Cape Town, a tourist magnet, for significantly slashing their water consumption.
“If we keep consumption this low for the weeks and months to come, we will defeat ‘Day Zero’ in 2018,” said Maimane, whose party runs the Cape Town municipality — and the wider region.
The drought facing Cape Town is the worst in 100 years.
The region in which Cape Town, known as the “Mother City” is located, seasonally receives rains in the southern hemisphere winter season running from around June through August.


Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

Updated 21 min 58 sec ago
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Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

  • British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
  • Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”

GENEVA: Britain on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to reform its treatment of Israel, joining the United States in demanding an end to the body’s alleged bias against the Jewish State.
Addressing the opening of the 38th council session, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace, and unless things change we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.
Israel is the only country with a dedicated council item.
Washington, some European countries and Australia have sided with Israel in condemning Item 7 as prejudiced, noting that countries with arguably worse rights records in recent years, like Syria are spared such intense scrutiny.
While previous US administrations have criticized Item 7, President Donald Trump’s government has raised the prospect of withdrawing from the council unless it is scrapped.
Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”
Each council session includes an agenda item on so-called country specific situations, known as Agenda Item 4, where debates on the crises in Syria, Burundi and others typically take place.