Cape Town drought: As 'Day Zero' draws nearer, city's rich-poor class divide comes to the fore

Cape Town: 'Day Zero' is approaching, as South Africa's showcase city of Cape Town prepares to turn off most water taps amid the worst drought in a century. Tensions among the four million residents are highlighting a class divide.

The top international tourist destination has both sprawling informal settlements and high-income oceanside neighborhoods. Some say poorer residents are unfairly blamed as concerns rise over wasting precious water. The military is prepared to help secure water collection points if 'Day Zero' occurs.

People queue up to collect water in Cape Town. Reuters

People queue up to collect water in Cape Town. Reuters

AP is exploring how residents are coping as water restrictions tighten in an attempt to avoid the possible shut-off in April, and it spoke with researchers about where the water usage problems lie.

Kirsty Carden with the Future Water Institute at the University of Cape Town pointed to the city's leafy suburbs. "It has been in the areas where people have gardens, they have swimming pools and they are much more profligate in the way that they use water, because they're used to the water just being, coming out of the taps," she said.

About a quarter of Cape Town's population lives in the informal settlements, where they get water from communal taps instead of individual taps at home, Carden said.

"And there are always pictures of running taps and broken fixtures and "look at the leakage" and all the rest. But the reality is that those 1 million people out of a population of 4 (million) only use 4.5 percent of the water," she added.

In one of the crowded settlements of corrugated-metal homes, resident Vuyo Kazi washed her laundry outside as others poured used water into the street. "Before, I was using two kettles of water to wash myself," she said. "So now I use one kettle of water."


Updated Date: Feb 03, 2018 17:16 PM

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