Here is some good news from Cape Town. It rained last week.
A couple of light rain showers, preceded by bursts of thunder, rolled around Table Mountain and deposited a few millimetres of badly needed moisture on this water-starved city.
Residents celebrated with photos and videos and tried to capture what they could through the strategic positioning of buckets and containers.
Here is the bad news. The dams which supply this community of four million still dropped by half a percentage point last week, leaving them at the perilously low level of 22.1%.
The last 10% is not fit for human consumption due to higher levels of sediment.
The city’s water crisis is the product of a savage three-year drought and the region needs heavy winter rains to relieve the pressure on its dams. But that is not something anybody here can count on.
Instead, the people of Cape Town have done something remarkable in their bid to head off “Day Zero” – the point when the authorities will have to turn the taps off.
Residents have slashed the amount of water they use in half – from 1.2 billion litres to 522 million litres per day – representing an unprecedented act of collective water conservation.
We found one of these “Day Zero heroes” in a modest looking house on the city’s outskirts.
Masha du Toit is a teacher who has turned her home into a water harvesting and recycling machine.
If it rains, Ms du Toit catches every drop with a series of large black tubs connected to her drain pipes.
“Actually, it doesn’t look so bad,” she said as she peered inside one of them.
“There is soot, smoke, sand and bird droppings in there so this is not drinking water – this is for flushing the toilet.”
She proudly showed us her new toilet attachment (which makes it easier to “self-fill” the cistern) – the dirty dishes storage system (so the washing up is done less frequently) and her bucket-and-container strewn shower.
“We don’t do this ‘two-minute shower’ anymore, we just do bucket baths,” she revealed.
The cumulative effect of this do-it-yourself water regime is quite extraordinary.
The city restricts Capetonians to a thrifty 50 litres of water a day but Ms du Toit says her daily usage is around 15 litres, “plus a little bit for our fish tank – we do top it up occasionally.”
When you consider that it takes about 20 litres of water just to flush the toilet a couple of times, this Cape Town teacher is something of a revolutionary.
I asked her if she had become a bit obsessive about saving water?
“Absolutely, yes I’m completely obsessed,” she replied.
“In fact, if I watch a movie now and I see someone washing their hands while they are talking to another character, I’m like, are you going to close that tap?”
Of course, Ms du Toit is not the only water-revolutionary in town.
Bev Antoncich, the well-coiffured director of the hair salon Perfectly Pampered, runs special “bucket and jug days” at her business.
Clients who bring in their own bottled water get a glass of champagne for free. Other salons offer discounts to their “BYOB customers”.
“It has been tough to get the whole thing going,” concedes Ms Antoncich.
“At first we were wetting clients all the way down their backs. We would give them a complete bath with the jugs. But we have it all under control now.”
Ms Antoncich says she has completely changed about the way she thinks about water and cannot bear the thought of any going to waste.
“You know, I think it would be easier for us if we didn’t have to ‘bucket and jug’ but we will still be saving water,” she said.
“I just couldn’t let water just go down the sink hole again.”
Afghanistan: Youngsters protest online against order telling girls not to go to school | World News
Afghan girls and boys have joined a social media protest against a decision by the Taliban to prevent young females going to school.
Putting their own safety at risk, many have created makeshift banners to make their points, opposing an edict by the Taliban government that female middle and high school students should not return to school for the time being, while boys of the same age can resume their studies this weekend.
It comes as the interim mayor of Kabul is telling female city authority employees to stay home, with only those whose jobs cannot be done by men allowed to work.
The moves are further evidence the Taliban, which overran Kabul last month, is enforcing its harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises that it would be tolerant and inclusive.
Among the slogans on the banners displayed by the youngsters are statements like: “What is our crime that we are prevented from education?” and “I won’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. We are equal.”
Sky News has blurred the faces of some of those protesting, as there are fears they could be at risk in a country that appears to be clamping down on the right of expression.
On Sunday, just over a dozen women staged a protest outside the new ministry, holding up placards calling for the right of women to participate in public life.
The protest lasted for about 10 minutes before a short verbal confrontation occurred with a man and the women got into cars and left, as members of the Taliban watched from nearby cars.
Kabul’s new interim mayor, Hamdullah Namony, told his first news conference that, pending a further decision, most of the 1,000 or so female city authority employees would be required to stay home.
He said exceptions would only be made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and the attendants of public toilets for women.
Mr Namony added: “There are some areas that men can’t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfil their duties, there is no alternative for it.”
During its previous rule between the mid 1990s and 2001, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.
In recent days, Taliban officials told female university students that classes would take place in gender-segregated settings, and they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code.
Under the previous US-backed administration, before it was deposed by the Taliban in August, men and women had sat alongside each other in universities, for the most part.
On Friday, the Taliban shut down the ministry for women’s affairs, replacing it with a government department responsible for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice”, with the job of enforcing Islamic law.
Amid deteriorating conditions for ordinary Afghans, many of whom previously relied on international aid, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the provincial city of Jalalabad, the second such deadly blast in as many days in an area where Islamic State militants are said to dominate.
The Taliban and IS extremists are enemies and battled each other before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month.
Initial reports said five people were killed, with a child among the two civilians said to have died. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.
Boris Johnson tells world leaders he is growing ‘increasingly frustrated’ at their efforts to tackle climate change | Politics News
Boris Johnson has criticised other world leaders over their efforts to tackle climate change, telling them he is growing “increasingly frustrated” that their commitments are “nowhere near enough”.
Speaking during a meeting at the United Nations in New York, the prime minister said the gap between what has been promised by industrialised nations and what they have so far delivered remains “vast”.
Co-hosting a discussion on the issue at the UN General Assembly, Mr Johnson urged fellow leaders to renew their efforts to meet a key financing pledge to help developing nations.
The PM wants to get countries to commit to giving $100bn (£73bn) a year in support to developing nations to cut their carbon emissions and shield themselves against climate change.
But he earlier told reporters there was only a “six out of 10” chance of this target being met before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November – which he then said will be “a turning point for the world” and “the moment when we have to grow up and take our responsibilities”.
He told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby: “We have been here before, we have all heard lots of positive noises, let’s see where we get to.
“We are not counting our chickens.”
However, Joe Biden’s climate envoy sounded upbeat when questioned by Sky News.
“I think we’re going to get it done by COP and the US will do its part,” John Kerry said.
Asked if the US president will announce more money this week, he replied: “I’m not hoping… I’m telling you to stay tuned into the president’s speech and we’ll see where we are.”
Chairing the climate discussion on Monday, Mr Johnson noted that “everyone nods and we all agree that something must be done”.
“Yet I confess I’m increasingly frustrated that the ‘something’ to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough,” he continued.
“It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences.
“And while progress is being made all over the world, the gulf between what has been promised, what is actually being delivered, and what needs to happen… it remains vast.
“Too many major economies – some represented here today, some absent – are lagging too far behind.”
And the PM warned countries there would be consequences if the financing target is not met, saying: “If you say that the lives of their children are not worth the hassle of reducing domestic coal consumption, will they vote with you in fora such as this?
“Will they work with you, borrow from you, stand with you if you tell the world that you don’t care whether their land and their people slip below the waves?
“To be merely a bystander is to be complicit in their fate – yet that is exactly what you will be if you fail to act this year.”
Ahead of the UN meeting, Downing Street said developed countries had “collectively failed” to meet the target.
Figures released last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that $79.6bn was mobilised in 2019, more than $20bn off the target.
Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.
The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.
Serbians block roads in Kosovo in protest over license plate restrictions | World News
Protesters have blocked roads in northern Kosovo after authorities stopped cars with Serbian plates from entering the country.
Serbia, which lost control of Kosovo in 1999, does not recognise Kosovo and has stopped cars with Kosovo license plates from entering the country.
Almost 50,000 Serbs who live in the north of Kosovo and share a border with Serbia, refuse to recognise Pristina’s authorities and as restrictions came into force on Monday, cars and trucks blocked roads in protest.
Police in Kosovo deployed riot gear and armoured vehicles as the blockades built up and Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said the move was not taken to harm drivers but was a retaliation measure against Belgrade.
“Today there is nothing illegal or discriminatory,” Mr Kurti said in parliament.
“Just as yesterday, today and tomorrow, Serb citizens will move freely and safely.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the situation is very “serious and difficult”.
“When you are dealing with people who are not responsible, it is difficult to find a solution,” Mr Vucic said.
The two countries began talks in 2013, mediated by the European Union, to resolve the issues, but little progress has been made.
Kosovo is recognised by around 110 countries, including the United States, Britain and most western countries, but Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, does not recognise it.
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