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Most municipalities remain unprepared to face climate change-induced disasters like the Durban floods - Salga

A multidisciplinary team recover a body following devastating floods. | SANDF

A multidisciplinary team recover a body following devastating floods. | SANDF

Published May 11, 2022


Durban - Despite the fact that climate change-induced disasters like flooding are becoming common occurrences, most municipalities in the country are reportedly not implementing measures to mitigate the challenge.

The situation is said to be even worse in district municipalities where they have even employed officers to focus on the challenge.

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Slindile Maphumulo from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) said this in a webinar on Tuesday, organised by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

The webinar was focussed on the impact of climate change and changing weather patterns.

Puseletso Mofokeng, Disaster Risk Management officer at the SA Weather Service said not every weather event was easy to predict, but they had foreseen the recent KwaZulu-Natal floods that left over 400 people dead, over 40 000 people displaced and 48 missing.

“This case of KZN was extreme… in fact was actually a big disaster, I don’t think a focus for one day or two would help much except, the disaster management would put people in very safe areas because that is their job.

“Our job is to provide data to them, our job is to provide a forecast, theirs is to take the forecast and implement it, they know the safe places in each municipality, where it is safe in terms of moving people,” he said.

Later Mofokeng said the Durban floods had severe impacts because of several issues. Among them was that the city and the province of KwaZulu-Natal were experiencing rapid population growth which then forced people to settle in places that are not suitable for human occupation.

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“Previously we would have a lower number of people living in KwaZulu-Natal, but we also know from statistics, we would hear from time to time that KwaZulu-Natal is growing faster than anywhere in the country… So, because of the number of people who are living in KwaZulu-Natal, the rate at which they are going, and the spaces they are competing for some of them are not suitable for human settlement. That is why you will have the number of people losing lives,” he added.

Delivering her presentation, Maphumulo from Salga was very frank in her submission, saying poor planning by the local government sphere has made the situation even worse.

“Another issue that is being argued is it really climate change that is causing all this impact or it is poor infrastructure in terms of our drainage systems that we develop as planners or as engineers? Is it putting people in the places where they are going to be vulnerable that is the main (cause)? Is it our poor sanitation? Is it our river catchment systems that are failing?

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“There is quite a lot of impact and climate change is but a percentage of it, but our planning, our poor planning is also causing people to suffer a great deal because climate change is not an issue that is new today. There has been weather forecasts dating 10 years, 20 years ago. But what are we doing to respond to those as local governments?” Maphumulo asked.

Regarding the early warning, Maphumulo said the systems are not fast enough even to allow municipalities to act and shield those who are to be affected.

“As much as the local government... there is some work being done around early warning systems, but it is not early enough and there is not enough mechanisms to warn the ordinary citizens.”

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