Last summer, Cape Town suffered severe water shortages. While the global media ran interference blaming global warming, an article in Nature magazine – hardly a hotbed of climate change denialism – explained why:
Since the 1980s, South Africa’s major conurbations have used systems models to guide their water management. These models, run by the national government, are considered world-class. They map links between river basins, reservoirs and transmission channels and use historical hydrological data to predict probable stream flows. Those are then matched to projections of demand to assess how much storage is needed. The models support real-time operations of the water network as well as planning for development. Crucially, they allow planners to assess risks of supply failures to different categories of users and evaluate the effectiveness of responses such as restrictions.
For two decades, policymakers heeded the models. They guided managers, for example, on when and where to tap sources and build reservoirs to enable the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) to meet rising demand from urban and industrial growth.
But dam building stalled in the 2000s, when local environmentalists campaigned to switch the focus to water conservation and management of demand. Such opposition delayed the completion of the Berg River Dam by six years. Eventually finished in 2009, the dam helped to keep the taps running in Cape Town this summer.
South Africa is repeating what’s happened across much of the English-speaking world and mainland Europe: contemporary politicians inherit a perfectly adequate system which has worked for decades and, through the application of ignorance, fanaticism, and arrogance in equal measures, proceed to f*ck it up completely. Unfortunately for South Africa, they seem to be taking things to the next level:
Blackouts in South Africa intensified to a maximum level on Saturday after the state power utility said it lost additional generation, including electricity imports from Mozambique.
The power cuts, first implemented over the weekend to replenish water and diesel designed for surplus generation, were raised to so-called Stage 4, removing 4,000 megawatts from the grid, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said in a statement on Saturday. It marked a third consecutive day of outages rotated throughout Africa’s most industrialized nation.
Eskom’s operational and financial woes stem from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015. The utility is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy.
It is tempting to blame this on an African government that’s reverting to type; they can certainly ask their brothers up in Nigeria for advice on living in a place with unreliable, intermittent electricity.
However, if this has been brought about by affirmative action policies, general incompetence of the political class, and religious-like commitment to environmental dogma foisted on them by supranational bodies and Geneva-based NGOs, how is this different to what’s going on in the developed world? The governments of France, Germany, the UK, and Australia have all decided to throw their electricity generating capacity into serious jeopardy by embracing windmills and closing nuclear plants, all for the purpose of impressing their peers at jamborees in resort towns. How long before supposedly developed countries are suffering brown-outs, or watching other parts of their infrastructure collapse? Italy can’t even keep its bridges from falling down, and I don’t think there’s a government anywhere which is capable of building anything without years of delays and quadrupling of costs. HS2, anyone? And it’s not as if South Africa is the only country in the world where people are appointed to senior positions based on skin-colour or other characteristics unrelated to experience, skills, and competence. Western organisations not only do this, they openly brag about it on their websites and give each other trophies for their efforts.
It used to be said that South Africa was a third-world country with first-world infrastructure. If they can’t even manage to keep the lights on, I think it’s fair to say that label is now obsolete. But what’s more concerning is the number of first-world countries which seem determined to have third-world infrastructure.