Transforming Durban's Riverine Management
Can adaptation to a changing climate also enhance local and provincial economies, thereby creating jobs and new avenues for private sector investment? When adapting to climate change, how can affected and neighbouring communities be taken on board and motivated to buy into the concept? While these questions are not typical when developing local adaptation projects, they have played a major role in strategically designing the Transformative River Management Programme (TRMP) in eThekwini Municipality (Durban), which the CFF is supporting through a Senior Project Advisor based in the city for a period of 2.5 years.
The overall objective of the TRMP and thus the CFF’s work in eThekwini is to build a more resilient system of water streams by involving the communities living alongside. Durban experienced severe flooding in October 2017 and April 2019 and is since upscaling its work to reduce the impacts of flooding. The TRMP will embrace some 7 400km of river streams across the whole city, if deployed to scale and when funding is mobilised.
The TRMP will significantly increase the city’s climate resilience by reducing the severity of flooding and damages to municipal and residential infrastructure, preventing the loss of lives and livelihoods, whilst creating hundreds of co-ops and thousands of jobs, illustrating a case in which community-based river management services create economic opportunities for citizens and enhance socio-economic capital. This is done by tackling riverine infrastructure across the board: shaping space for ecological and recreational opportunities and enhancing wastewater treatment facilities.
The “How Long” Park illustrates this key feature and founding activity of the Sihlanzimvelo Programme. Michael Mlangeni, a community member of Umlazi Township, established this park following a dream many years ago. He began by rehabilitating the Isipingo River banks through planting beautiful flower gardens, making it attractive for the community to host functions and, used bedrock found on the river banks to build his house in the park. For Michael it was “how long” before the park would be formalised.
Such formalisation, adaptation and redesign of riverside community projects will be costly. Hence, the TRMP business case will use a cost-benefit analysis to persuade a range of funders to make the necessary investments, including the municipality itself, businesses, property owners in Durban, and global climate funders. To achieve this, CFF is promoting leading-edge technologies including GIS-based vulnerability assessments and hydrological modelling.
CFF support shows impact
The joint work between CFF and Durban led to an increase of the city’s programme budget to cover 1 000km of river streams instead of the initially targeted 300km. This more than triples the number of riverside communities benefiting from economic opportunities and enhanced resilience.
With CFF’s multi-pronged support of technical assistance, capacity development and knowledge sharing, Durban has formally established the TRMP. Beyond Durban, the CFF also assisted with developing a proposal to secure funding for agro-ecology projects in the uMhlangane river catchment. In addition, the CFF is sharing good practices on transformative river management for replication in 17 other municipalities in South Africa’s Central Provincial Climate Change Compact of KwaZulu-Natal as well as with Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Dakar in Senegal. Based on Durban’s experience with the TRMP, cities and communities across Africa will learn how to leverage climate adaptation to sustainable economic models.