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.


Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

Updated 23 March 2019
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Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

  • Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil

JAKARTA: Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and EU to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over legislation that will phase out palm oil manufacturing in the region, risking jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.
“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.
“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.
Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.
Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.
“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.
Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.
“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.
Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.
On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.
“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.
“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.