Tag Archives: South Africa

United and divided responses to complex urban issues

By Christina Culwick, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, South Africa

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Flood damage in Ekurhuleni, 2011. Author’s photograph

In November 2016, Ekurhuleni (South Africa) was hit by a spate of heavy floods that left people dead, houses washed away, cars under water and infrastructure irreparably damaged. These floods came in the wake of an extended drought which was experienced across the country. A quick assessment of the situation may lead to the conclusion that freak weather events are on the rise, and that floods are the inevitable consequence of extreme rainstorms. However, cause and effect are seldom so neatly defined, particularly in urban settings.

There are increasing suggestions that extreme weather events and climate change will have the greatest impact in cities, where people are concentrated and many of the natural systems that could provide buffers against extreme weather have been removed or degraded. When one starts to deconstruct the causes and impacts of natural disasters, the messiness and interconnectedness of contributing factors quickly become evident. Natural disasters occur at the intersection of social, political and environmental systems.

There is growing emphasis within both academia and practice on the need for integrated knowledge and disaster management solutions (Mercer et al 2010). However this is only possible through rethinking problems and combining a range of knowledge which is traditionally kept separate (Robinson 2008). Disasters, such as those experienced in Ekurhuleni, provide opportunities to reflect on the current understanding of disasters and approaches to managing them, and find more effective ways of anticipating, preparing and coping with disasters.

A recently published article in Area (Culwick and Patel, 2016) uses set of floods in Atlasville, Ekurhuleni, which took place between 2006 and 2010, to make the case for transdisciplinary approaches in disaster risk reduction. The Atlasville community experienced a series of floods between 2016-2010. Depending on who one spoke to, different people had different assessments of what led to the unprecedented floods in the areas. There was evidence to support some claims that the floods were associated with heavy rainfall events, or extended periods of rain. Other claims placed greater emphasis on the failings of the municipality in proactively managing flood risk by neglecting maintenance of the stormwater system, allowing upstream developments without sufficient rainwater management interventions and poor coordination between municipal departments. Based on their assessment of the cause of the floods, different people came to different conclusions about what flood management response would be most appropriate.

However, if the range of knowledge and perceptions are combined it is possible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. Culwick and Patel (2016) explore how, when people are able to reframe the problem in ways that cut across sectors and individual perspectives, it becomes much easier to see interconnections, blindspots and where different components have a compounding effect. The interventions that emerged from integrating the different knowledge and perceptions highlighted the importance of not just a single approach, but a multi-pronged approach that deliberately enhances the absorptive and adaptive capacity within each of the natural, infrastructural, municipal and social systems.

The significance of the research findings is twofold. Firstly, the community’s knowledge and social capital emerged as an important resource to assist with monitoring, adaptation and disaster response. Secondly, in the context of disaster management, individual factors in isolation may not pose major threat of disaster, however when these factors compound they can lead to significant disaster risk. It is thus critical to adopt an integrated approach to understanding and managing disaster risk.

About the author: Christina Culwick is a research at Gauteng City-Region Observatory. Her research interests lie in urban sustainability transitions, resilience, environmental governance, and transforming Gauteng towards a liveable, inclusive and just city-region.

References

Chernick I and Mbangeni L 2016 6 Killed in Gauteng flood horror IOL News

Joubert J 2016 SA drought not broken after driest year in history The Tines

books_icon Culwick C and Patel Z 2016 United and divided responses to complex urban issues: insights on the value of a transdisciplinary approach to flooding risk Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12282.

books_icon Mercer J Kelman I Taranis L and Suchet-Pearson S 2010 Framework for integrating indigenous and scientific knowledge for disaster risk reduction Disasters 34 214–239

books_icon Robinson J 2008 Being undisciplined: Transgressions and intersections in academia and beyond Futures 40(1) 70-86

Content Alert: New Articles (13th April 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Body capital and the geography of aging
Maurizio Antoninetti and Mario Garrett
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01089.x

Commentary

Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits
Amir Kassam and Hugh Brammer
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00465.x

Original Articles

Spatialising the refugee camp
Adam Ramadan
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00509.x

The geographies of community-oriented unionism: scales, targets, sites and domains of union renewal in South Africa and beyond
David Jordhus-Lier
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00504.x

Corpses, dead body politics and agency in human geography: following the corpse of Dr Petru Groza
Craig Young and Duncan Light
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00502.x

Towards geographies of speech: proverbial utterances of home in contemporary Vietnam
Katherine Brickell
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00503.x

The biopolitics of animal being and welfare: dog control and care in the UK and India
Krithika Srinivasan
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00501.x

‘An instruction in good citizenship’: scouting and the historical geographies of citizenship education
Sarah Mills
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00500.x

Boundary Crossings

Geography, film and exploration: women and amateur filmmaking in the Himalayas
Katherine Brickell and Bradley L Garrett
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00505.x

Area Content Alert: Volume 43, Issue 4 (December 2011)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

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Tri 4 Africa

By Kelly Wakefield
It would be a real shame if I didn’t get to write someting in relation to the World Cup in South Africa and having read about Rob Forbes’ 20,000km plus triathlon from Cirencester, UK to South Africa, it seemed like a fantastic opportunity.
Rob departed the UK on 1st October 2009, first cycling across France and Spain, then down the West coast of Africa before arriving in in South Africa at the start of June 2010 to support England in the World Cup.  Along the way, Rob has swum the Strait of Gibraltar and completed an ultra marathon, The Comrades covering 89km between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The charity Re-Cycle, that provides bicycle aid in Africa will benefit from Rob’s extraordinary effort as he is hoping to raise more than £20,000. 
 
Sport is an amazing event that brings people together to achieve extraordinary things.  The nature of these events require stamina and a will to succeed in often far reaching and geographically distant places which creates a  massive sense of achievement.  Well done Rob!

View the official website Tri 4 Africa which includes Rob’s blog and more information

The politics and power of buildings

By Jenny Lunn

Buildings are a part of our everyday lives. We live and work in buildings. We go to buildings for different activities – schools, hospitals, railways stations, supermarkets. Buildings host the machinery of our country – government ministries, banks, law courts. Buildings symbolise aspects of our culture – royal palaces, churches, cinemas, football stadia.

The geographical study of architecture has tended to be a small sub-field of cultural geography. Peter Kraftl’s article in Geography Compass (May 2010) gives an overview of scholarship on this topic, looking at the three main methodologies that have been used by geographers to study architecture and two prominent themes: interest in mobility and movement and the politics of architectural design and practice.

It is the latter that is particularly relevant in the light of the recent BBC documentary Building Africa: Architecture of a Continent (BBC Four, 27 April 2010, 11pm). Architect David Adjaye travelled through Africa looking at the continent’s architectural history and showed how buildings express the interplay between politics, economics and culture.

Whether Dutch colonial buildings in Church Square, Cape Town, such as the former Slave Lodge, or the Art Deco Cinema Impero in Asmara, Eritrea (see picture), which was part of Mussolini’s dream of a modernist city in Africa. Whether the concrete Central Business District in Nairobi – including the 30-storey Kenyatta International Conference Centre – built in 1960s and 1970s which expressed the hope and optimism of newly-independent nation, or recent developments such as the spectacular National Theatre in Accra, Ghana, built in collaboration with the Chinese government. The politics, power and symbolism in Africa’s built environment is a fascinating and worthy topic for geographical enquiry.

Read Peter Kraftl’s article in Geography Compass

Read about David Adjaye’s BBC documentary on African architecture