Belize represented at 7th meeting of Ministers responsible for Public Security in the Americas
November 8, 2019
Parliamentarians discuss hunger and food security
November 8, 2019

South African drought situation highlights climate change concerns felt even in Belize

Drought land

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019. 8:14 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: This week, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) premiered a short video detailing the severe drought conditions in the South African town of Graaff-Reinet, the effect it has had on residents and what their situation could mean for the rest of the world.

The video, which premiered on Tuesday, showed BBC Correspondent Andrew Harding visiting the Nqweba Dam in Graaff-Reinet to find it completely empty and over 40,000 residents in a dire situation as a result. The video noted that it has not rained in Graaff-Reinet for five years.

The residents say that the absence of running water has increased the hardship in their daily lives for things like cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, and keeping their bodies clean; while some farmers have had to stop raising cattle because the land is too dry for grazing.

“The reason what happens here matters to the rest of the world so much is that this region is currently heating up at twice the global average, two degrees warmer already. Within the next few decades that could be five or six degrees. So what you have here essentially is a glimpse into the future and it’s not looking promising,” Harden said. “The lessons from here are urgent and familiar. Plan earlier, adapt faster.”

As the video rolls on a community organization called Gifts of the Giver is seen assisting the villagers by giving them water. Its founder, Ali Sblay, said that the situation on a whole reflects a failure on the government and municipal authority.

“The municipality has no plan to solve this current crisis. The warning signs were given five to six years ago when the dam levels were dropping,” Sblay said. “…solutions were supposed to be found already. The had meetings after meetings, but none of them were

Ivoer Berrington, the Local Municipality Engineer, reemphasized that the problem being faced in South Africa has its root cause in a global phenomenon and that other countries need to take heed.

“What we’re seeing here now is a part of climate change. And people are just going to have to, even countries that have lots of water, they’ve got to start realizing that the situation is changing drastically,” Berrington said.

The harsh reality being experienced in South Africa may not have reached those extremes in Latin America and the Caribbean, but the effects of climate change are being felt in the region. In Belize, the current drought situation took a heavy toll on the agricultural sector, with farmers accumulating over $50 million in losses due to damaged crops.

Breaking Belize News (BBN) spoke with Ronald Gordon, climatologist at the National Meteorological Service of Belize, who explained that the month of October saw significantly more rain than other months, which relieved the drought situation in Northern Belize in the short term.

Gordon said that the rainfall data for October is still being tabulated but that the rains observed did little to alleviate the concerns for the long-term in terms of groundwater resources coming into the dry season.

“It is quite possible that by the end of April we will have a shortage of groundwater,” Gordon explained.

With only months to go before the situation gets any worse, the relevant authorities, which have already begun emergency interventions with affected farmers, may need to take an even closer look at how Belize will prepare for any eventualities associated with climate change.


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