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South Africa Advances Water Equity Agenda on World Stage

  • Professor Bongani Ncube advocates for improving access to productive water in South Africa's disadvantaged communities, emphasizing its role in poverty alleviation and agricultural development.
  • The SARChI initiative, established in 2006, aims to strengthen research and innovation capacity in public universities, with a focus on addressing societal challenges such as water governance and distribution.
  • South Africa grapples with historical inequities in water access, exacerbated by climate change and drought, necessitating policy reforms like the Draft National Water Amendment Bill to promote equitable access and ensure water security for all.
Water Equity

Today, as South Africa joins the global community in commemorating World Water Day, the nation stands at a critical juncture in its quest for water security and equitable access. Celebrated annually on March 22nd, this day serves as a poignant reminder of the indispensable role water plays in our lives and ecosystems.

Leading the charge for change is Professor Bongani Ncube, Chairperson of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI). Emphasizing the imperative of enhancing access to productive water within South Africa’s marginalized communities, Professor Ncube advocates for a transformative approach. “I’m talking about water for productivity, water for agriculture, [and] water that will lift people out of poverty,” asserts Professor Ncube, echoing the aspirations of many South Africans.

Established in 2006 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF), SARChI aims to bolster research and innovation capabilities across public universities. Nestled within the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Professor Ncube’s work at the Centre for Water and Sanitation Research underscores the nexus between academia and societal needs.

Despite strides made since SARChI’s inception, challenges persist, particularly concerning water governance and distribution. Professor Ncube highlights longstanding issues with the licensing process, which has failed to adequately serve many communities. “The compulsory licensing, validation, and verification processes have not sufficiently addressed the needs of our communities,” laments Professor Ncube, citing the prevalence of water protests as testament to systemic shortcomings.

This year’s World Water Day theme, ‘Leveraging Water for Peace,’ resonates deeply with South Africa’s historical narrative and contemporary realities. Professor Ncube elucidates how past inequities continue to reverberate, underscoring the imperative of policy reforms to rectify historical injustices. The Draft National Water Amendment Bill, currently under public scrutiny, embodies a step towards redressing these imbalances, as Professor Ncube commends its efforts to promote equitable access for all.

The journey towards water equity is multifaceted, intersecting with broader socio-economic dynamics and environmental challenges. Professor Ncube underscores the disproportionate impact of climate change and drought on vulnerable communities, urging proactive measures to safeguard their rights. While statistics reveal progress, with 88.7% of households gaining access to water by 2021, the journey towards universal access remains incomplete.

As South Africa navigates the complexities of water governance and distribution, collaboration emerges as a cornerstone of progress. Professor Ncube calls for concerted efforts from government, academia, and civil society to enact meaningful change. Harnessing the spirit of World Water Day, let us embark on a collective journey towards a more water-secure and equitable future for all South Africans.

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