Antarctica icebergs to quench Cape Town thirst

Cape Town, Tuesday

A marine salvage expert wants to tug icebergs from Antarctica to South Africa to help solve Cape Town’s drought. The plan is to guide huge chunks of ice across the ocean, chop them into a slurry and melt them down into millions of litres of drinking water.

A single iceberg “could produce about 150 million litres per day for about a year”, around 30 per cent of the city’s needs, Nick Sloane, a director at the US marine salvage firm Resolve Marine, told Reuters news agency. After three years of low rainfall Cape Town has been warned that it may have to turn off water supplies, but seasonal rains averted the crisis.

Sloane is looking for investors for the scheme that he has said would cost $130 million (Sh12.9 billion) and experts will gather in mid-May to discuss whether his plan is possible, reports News 24. Earlier this year, Cape Town grabbed the world’s headlines as it careened towards a water armageddon.

Crippled by a three-year-long drought, the South African city braced for a complete shutdown of domestic water supplies. In the event, Cape Town dodged the immediate bullet. But thousands of kilometres away, another African city has had far less luck — and much less attention for its ordeal.

“We haven’t had a drop from our taps for three weeks,” said a resident of Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second largest city, while she awaited her turn to draw water from a well. “The situation is catastrophic,” said an employee of the state-run water distribution company, Sodeci, who asked not to be named.

Located in grassy savanna around 400 kilometres from the Ivorian economic capital of Abidjan, Bouake is a city of more than half million souls, with a million more in surrounding territory. The area has been hit by a double whammy. The dammed lake that supplies 70 per cent of the city’s water has run dry.

One factor is an unprecedented drought that has gripped the region — a phenomenon in line with expert warnings about climate change. But another, says the territory’s director for water affairs, Seydou Coulibaly, is the impact of unregulated sand quarrying, which has altered the course of waterways feeding the reservoir. —AFP

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