Published: Thursday 15 June 2000

-- The slump in rainfall, as experienced in most parts of South Africa, will result in a severe spell of prolonged drought, according to a warning issued by the Kenya Meteorological Department ( kmd ).

They have predicted that the severity of this drought, which commenced last year, will be worse than that of 1983-1984. kmd 's director Evans Mukolwe said that it should be clear that the series of dry conditions that followed the current rainfall deficits are similar to what had resulted in the 1983-84 droughts.

He further pointed out that although there are expectations of rain in western and coastal parts of the country, the damage done to crops by the rain deficit -- especially during the months of March and April -- may be irrevocable. Mukolwe also explained that even if normal rainfall conditions are restored now, the total rainfall deficit might not be offset.

Poor rainfall in South Africa is thought to be because of the current La Nina phenomenon, sea surface temperature anomalies over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the cyclone activity in the South West Indian Ocean between January and April.

However, it was also pointed out that the situation would improve and rainfall would be enhanced during the coming three months of May, June and July as sea temperatures over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans indicate that La Nina effects are dying out. Kenyans have, therefore, been advised to make use of every little amount of rainwater, as the situation is terrible. Rivers are also anticipated to reduce in volume.

Water has been a perennial problem for over nine million people in South Africa who still do not receive supply of running water. This, despite the government having supplied tap water to more than five million people since 1994. Addressing the Drilling Contractors' Association of Southern Africa in Pretoria recently, water affairs and forestry minister Ronnie Kasrils said that groundwater was going to be used far more in the attempt to provide running water to all South Africans.

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