At the 2012 inaugural meeting of the City’s “Energy and Climate Change Committee” [E&CCC], Sarah Ward an official stated that from 2006 until 2016, the cost of electricity would have increased by 415%. Concurrently a media report specified that ESKOM has to payR23.5bn a year for the next six years to service its debt of R182.5bn. ESKOM’s finance director said the debt was expected to increase to R350bn in the next 3 years. The biggest cost contributor was the price of coal. Be that as it may, Eskom managed to boost profit by 60% to R13.2bn, due to double digit increases for two consecutive years.

According to some researchers at the Energy Research Centre [ERC] based at UCT, resource consumerism is at a fork in the road. Relentless consumption is approaching a brick wall entitled “sustainable living”. In the city’s “Smart living Handbook”, researchers have compiled a “Bible” for sustainable living. The ideal of eliminating the production of waste, reducing the amounts, re-use, recycling and the responsible disposal of waste are key elements. Because of population growth, migration patterns, limited fresh water catchment areas and shortage of rainfall, Capetonians are in for a resource deprived future. Inevitably, the cost of water and electricity will increase to unsustainable levels. Already the City has a By-law that prohibits the watering of gardens, sport fields or parks between 10am and 4pm.

According to Alderman Belinda Walker “we are ignoring the elephant in the room”. A sentiment she expressed at an Energy and Climate Change course hosted by the ERC unit at UCT last month. Since I agreed with her, I anticipated a quantifiable response. I experienced a similar reticence when I repeated the question at the E&CCC meeting.

Most politicians, officials and researchers are desperately cautious about discussing issues of population management with regards to the availability of resources [water and electricity]. Our historical experience (Apartheid) has made it uncomfortable to discuss this issue overtly. However, In the near future, Cape Town’s fresh water supply will run short in its ability to provide for the growing population. Although poorer households currently receive some subsidised electricity and water, this relationship will become untenable as the burden of cost, increases on the middle class.

Within this city and at all levels of governance, leadership will have to analyse the long term consequence of limitless population growth on both our natural resources and living environment. As a society we will have to accept the serious threat, climate change poses to our fresh water supply. As a collective, we will have to adjust our individual behaviour accordingly. Alternatively, Capetonians should acclimatise to the idea of consuming recycled toilet water.

Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress

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