Rapid Urbanization and Climate Change Puts Strain on Durban’s Environment

March 1, 2016

eTHEKWINI, March 1, 2016 —The natural environment of eThekwini, the city also known as Durban, has been put under severe pressure due to rapid urbanization and climate change. These have contributed to the degradation of the City’s environmental assets, such as rare and threatened ecosystems, rivers and coastal wetlands, undermining the wellbeing of people and the economic prospects of the City, according to a World Bank report released today.

The report, Promoting Green Urban Development in African Cities: provides an urban environmental profile of the City of eThekwini. It notes that the City, has developed in a fragmented pattern including high growth in peri-urban areas that have encroached into natural habitats and conservation areas, threatening the City’s long term sustainability as the degradation of the City’s natural resource base has direct economic and financial costs.

We welcome this work in partnership with the World Bank”, says Executive Mayor of the Municipality of eThekwini, James Nxumalo. “The report confirms that our environment is under stress due to a range of drivers, but there have been some notable successes done by the City. The Municipality has many Climate Change mitigation and adaptation programmes in place such as Reforestation, Durban Metropolitan Open Space Systems and Community Adaptation programme.”

He added that as much as the Municipality is doing a lot to mitigate climate change and urbanization, these are global challenges that are not unique to eThekwini. “We hope that this study will inform future strategies of the City.”

The City compares favorably with other cities in terms of remaining national assets and on environmental management in areas such as conservation planning, natural resource management, developing an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and resiliency planning for climate change adaptation.

The report shows that the recent growth experienced by eThekwini as a multi nodal City, and particularly the growth of poorly managed informal settlements, have been key drivers of the degradation of the city’s natural environment. For instance, the lack of sanitation infrastructure in about 67% households in informal settlements which directly or indirectly discharge effluent into municipal rivers, has an impact on water quality.

Furthermore, legal and illegal sand mining remove one-third of all sediment flows from rivers, driving river shoreline and beach erosion. Beaches in eThekwini are losing 280,000 cubic meters of sand every year and experience continuous decline of seawater quality.

The report finds that climate change is placing further strain due to increasing levels of rainfall which contribute to runoff levels that exceed the capacity of the city’s infrastructure, causing flooding and the spread of pollution.

The report shows that there has been progressive loss of terrestrial assets and degradation of aquatic and estuarine assets. All but three of eThekwini’s 16 estuaries are degraded and a number of vegetation types face local extinction, with the endangered Sandstone Sourveld which once covered 6% of eThekwini, covering only 2% in 2009. Furthermore, 24% of eThekwini’s original wetlands have been permanently lost due to historical agriculture uses.

Enhanced local-level implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations throughout land under Traditional Authority and the eThekwini Municipal Authority are among the recommendations in the report. It also recommends the integration of strategic and financial planning across sectors as well as the development of Green Urban Development strategies for specific areas and investments.

In addition, improved, appropriate management of the urbanization process including basic service delivery and upgrading in informal settlements, would help the city better manage the environment. The report also cites improved liquid waste infrastructure and services using appropriate technologies and cost-recovery measures and long-term watershed and water supply management in its recommendations.

“The collaboration with the City of eThekwini has been very productive and exemplifies the leading role that eThekwini plays in the field of city environmental management in Africa and the World,” says Roland White, World Bank Global Lead for City Management, Governance and Financing.

Media Contacts
World Bank
Zandile Ratshitanga
Tel : +27 73 888 5962
Ethekwini Municipality
Gugu Mbonambi
Tel : +31 311 4855