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NMB Chamber Water Survey probes views of Bay’s Private Sector

Feb 26, 2018
NMB Chamber Water Survey probes views of Bay’s Private Sector

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (NMBBC), the Eastern Cape’s largest business association, representative of a broad spectrum of businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay metro, today announced the results of a survey which solicited the views of its members in the city about drought, water scarcity and water restrictions in Nelson Mandela Bay metro in the Eastern Cape.

The survey was conducted between 13 – 14 February, and a relevant sample size of registered chamber members participated.

“We commissioned this survey to guide the Business Chamber’s efforts and engagement with national, regional and municipal planning authorities,” said Nomkhita Mona, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO.

Mona notes that the economy of Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth and Despatch which constitute the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, is heavily reliant on water, “lifeblood of the Bay’s industrial and manufacturing-oriented economy.”

63% of respondents indicated they were severely concerned about the future impact of the drought, water scarcity and water restrictions on the operations, profitability and sustainability of their businesses.   Almost a third (28%) of the respondents were moderately concerned.

Drought, water scarcity and water restrictions can also potentially hamper local economic development (LED) in the Metro in the distant future, the survey revealed.

Exploring the relationship between water and investment, almost half (42%) of the respondents said they would refrain from investing and expanding in their businesses as a result of water shortages and poor water security.   Thirty per cent (30%) of respondents were uncertain, and 28% indicated water resource availability would not affect their decision to invest or expand their businesses in the future.

Respondents were asked whether national, provincial and local government planning authorities were creating sustainable and innovative medium and long-term solutions to ensure ample water resources.  Only 9% of respondents said yes, 79%% said no, and 12% were indecisive. 

The respondents registered interesting and varying views.  One respondent noted the city’s investment-promotion strategy should consider attracting low-water users.  Various other comments focused on the slow pace at which national, regional and local authorities were implementing solutions noting “[w]e need quicker action and implementation of actions decided upon” and another said “solutions are being made but implementation is slower than expected.”

Polled whether national, provincial and local authorities have effective contingency measures in place and have been consulted on a possible Day Zero scenario, 14% agreed, and 86% disagreed.

Mandela Bay’s Day Zero?  

One survey question tested whether Bay businesses believed a Day Zero scenario in Nelson Mandela Bay was possibly on the horizon.

Responding to the statement: “there is a likelihood that Nelson Mandela Bay can reach a Day Zero scenario over the next year as result of our current dam levels, planning by national, provincial and regional authorities and poor rainfall in catchment areas,"  54% strongly agreed, 41% somewhat agreed, and 4% strongly disagreed with the statement. 

Next, the Chamber survey sought to establish how Nelson Mandela Bay businesses would respond to a Day Zero scenario.  For 59% of respondents, it will be business as usual with respondents saying they would carry on without any major disruptions.  However, 42% would be adversely affected:  21% of businesses indicated they would shut down, and 21% indicated staff members will be sent home.

Desalination - a future industry for Bay?

An overwhelming 94% of businesses want national, regional and local planning authorities to consider desalination plants in Nelson Mandela Bay as part of future strategies to ensure water resource availability.  Another 42% of Chamber members want the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber to engage and lobby national, provincial and regional planning authorities to begin feasibility studies for desalination plants.

Climate Change a Reality

With a 10 – 20 year outlook in mind, 81% indicated that Nelson Mandela Bay could face water shortages as a result of climate change.  Seven per cent (7%) believed that climate change would not affect water resources while 12% were uncertain.

Moving Forward

Mona believes the private and public sector, academia, environmentalists, planning and development officials and the broader society need to have frank debates and discussions to map a way forward and co-craft Nelson Mandela Bay’s “Bay H20 Security” a long-term vision and mobilization plan for water security for industry and commerce.

“This should look at the short-, medium- and long-term needs of industry, population growth trends, models of direct investment, and other integrated development plans.  We can also develop an entirely new industry for the city through desalination plants in the city.  This is an initiative which the Business Chamber is committed to pursue.

“We believe in long term planning and should keep our eyes beyond the country’s Vision 2030.   We need to strongly co-ordinate developmental programmes and future economic growth policy.  These have to flow into each other and co-exist,” she said.

Mona said the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber will host the Bay H20 Security think tank and planning session in April involving its members, planning authorities, the municipality, and other subject-matter experts to jump start water-security planning.

“We plan to drive this agenda to ensure we see results and an acceptable level of water security.   The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has already started with the outreach activities to bring subject matter experts, government and the private sector around the table,” she said.

Mona also said the Business Chamber will unveil its strategic five-year plan later this month at a media briefing by which time it will have been communicated with its membership base.