Western Cape seeks state of disaster due to flood damages | Infrastructure news

Flood damage in Cape Town
The Western Cape cabinet is set to submit an application to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) to declare a provincial disaster due to the significant losses suffered during the torrential rains and floods in June.

“The declaration of a provincial disaster by the NDMC will allow us to approach the National Government for funding support, as the scope of damages is beyond the ability of the provincial fiscus. This move to secure external funding is seen as pivotal in expediting the province’s recovery process and rebuilding crucial infrastructure,” says Minister Anton Bredell, who heads the Western Cape’s Local Government, Environmental Affairs, and Development Planning.

Significant damage

A careful assessment of the damages, taking into account insured and non-insured losses, as well as the ability to reallocate funds within existing budgets, has placed the unfunded damages at a substantial R703.3 million.

The agricultural sector, a backbone of the Western Cape’s economy, has taken a severe blow with unfunded damages estimated at R500 million. Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, expressed deep concern over the impact of the floods on rural communities. “The damage to agriculture irrigation, fencing, orchards, vineyards, and crops, compounded by sediment displacement upstream and downstream, is extensive,” he adds. The Department of Agriculture has already allocated R18.6 million to address these issues, but the provincial government’s call for national support is seen as instrumental in revitalising this critical sector.

In addition to agricultural losses, the province’s infrastructure has also suffered substantial damage. Unfunded infrastructure damages are estimated at R181.8 million, affecting roads, bridges, and public facilities. The Department of Infrastructure has taken swift action by reallocating R4.6 million from its current budget to address immediate repairs to critical infrastructure.

Municipalities within the province have not been spared either. Unfunded damages to municipal infrastructure, after budget reallocation, have been calculated at R21.5 million. The breakdown includes R4.4 million in Overstrand, R1.4 million in Theewaterskloof, R350 000 in Swartland, R8 million in Cederberg, R435 000 in Drakenstein, R5.6 million in Stellenbosch, and R1.4 million in the City of Cape Town. The ripple effect of these damages underscores the urgent need for financial aid.

Climate change

Minister Bredell underscored the importance of viewing the flood damages within the broader context of climate change. He emphasized that future flooding and droughts could be even more intense and highlighted the importance of forward-looking planning and design. “Rebuilding must focus on sustainable practices such as maintaining clear catchments and river courses to prevent costly damage to infrastructure and, more importantly, safeguard lives,” he states.

The Western Cape’s application for a provincial disaster classification has the potential to unlock essential funding from the National Government, aiding in a comprehensive recovery effort that prioritises not only the province’s economic revival but also its long-term resilience in the face of an evolving climate.

As the province grapples with the aftermath of the devastating floods, all eyes are now on the National Disaster Management Centre as it deliberates on the classification request. The outcome will determine the scope and speed of the recovery process, setting the stage for a renewed Western Cape that is prepared to meet the challenges of an uncertain future head-on.

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