Plea for visitors: Borehole and rain bring reprieve for Grahamstown Arts Festival

10 March 2019 - 11:52 By Nico Gous
Gift of the Givers, in partnership with National Arts Festival (NAF), successfully sink a borehole outside the 1820 Settlers National Monument in Makhanda (Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape.
Gift of the Givers, in partnership with National Arts Festival (NAF), successfully sink a borehole outside the 1820 Settlers National Monument in Makhanda (Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape.
Image: nationalartsfestival.co.za

"The festival will have water. We’ve got this."

That is what National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester wrote in a letter  amid worries about water shortages in Makhanda (Grahamstown) ahead of the festival which will be held from June 27 to July 7 as the town experiences one of the worst droughts in its history.

"The effects have been exacerbated by a largely inadequate and poorly maintained municipal infrastructure and, as a result, a large number of our residents have been battling to get water to attend to their everyday needs," Lankester said.

"A few people have said they might not attend the festival, believing either that they will not have access to water or that they will be an added burden on an already-fragile supply. Some have even told me, or posted on social media, that they know the festival is either cancelled or moving to another city (PE seems to be the popular choice of these wild speculators)."

Lankester said the city needed about 20ml (megalitres) of water daily, but the drought had left them with access to about half of what they needed from the Orange/Fish River project.

"This capacity is in the process of being doubled, but will only be completed in 2021."

Residents rejoiced after weekend rains brought some reprieve.

Mfundo Flow shared on Facebook: "Hallelujah, God has answered the prayers of Makhanda residents, it's raining at last."

Nicholas James said on Sunday morning: "The good news is that the catchment of Howisons Poort Dam ( where the pumping station is for the Waainek water works) has now had a total of 92mm rain since Friday. There's a strong flow into the dam...and it's still raining! There was 36mm recorded in the last 24 hours."

DispatchLIVE reported on February 20 that Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said the first borehole site would be opened to residents who wished to collect water in 20l buckets.

The organisation’s hydrologist, geologist and palaeontologist Gideon Groenewald said a conservative estimate of its yield would be at least 20,000l a day.

"The aim is to drill at as many sites as possible to provide a sustainable alternative to bottled water which is an emergency stop gap measure."

Lankester said they have or will have:

  • Sunk a borehole which provides 100,000l of water daily at the 1820 Settlers monument to sustain the festival's main hub;
  • Add extra drinking stations at the main venues; and
  • Ferry water in tankers to refill existing and new tanks at venues.

In addition, festival organisers are working with local guesthouses and the Rhodes University residences "to ensure that there will be enough water for our visitors to drink and to attend to their personal needs", he said.

"Between now and June, we expect that a further 20 boreholes will be sunk around town, adding millions of litres of water daily into the system. All this water is being tested and will only be used if it is declared pure and potable against the highest-possible quality standards."

Lankester said Makhanda needed the festival as it boosted the local GDP by R94m annually and created jobs.

"The festival will have water. We’ve got this. And we need to reassure you that you will not be an unwelcome burden on residents. In fact, your presence will make a vital contribution to the local economy," he wrote.

"Makhanda needs the festival — it boosts our GDP by R94-million annually, creating employment for hundreds of people, many of whom have no other work during the year." 


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