The extremely worrying water shortage in Cape Town is an indication that climate change is an issue that can simply not be ignored by engineers and city planners, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has told consulting engineers in Cape Town.
She told the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC)-Group of African Member Associations (GAMA) conference on infrastructure that the drought was a perfect example of this.
“We are facing the worst drought in 100 years. For three years in a row, we haven’t received our winter rainfall. The pattern of rain has changed as well. Instead of a week or two of soft rain, we have short bursts and thunderstorms. Our stormwater system cannot cope.”
She said engineers needed to work on new methods.
“The days are gone when we could rely on rain to fill up our dams. We need to redesign our stormwater systems and look at other ways to collect water.
“We want to move-treated waste water, but we only have one reticulation system. We need a second system [to] transport waste water.”
De Lille further said the design of cities like Cape Town should be adapted to stop urban sprawl, which had started during the apartheid era when people were pushed to the outskirts of the city.
“Some people spend 40% of their income travelling to and from work. This must change.”
The mayor said transport was being tied in with urban development in Cape Town, while density was being considered.
De Lille challenged government and the private sector to come up with new and creative ways of raising money for infrastructure in the current tight economic times.
“I am sick and tired of hearing the continuous excuse that there’s no money for infrastructure. It’s not necessary, as you can make a plan.”
She said the city had released 6 ha of land under the unfinished bridges in the centre of the city. The land, which had not been used for over 40 years, would be released for development, on two conditions – that developers use it to build affordable housing or to reduce traffic congestion.
She said the City of Cape Town had committed to investing R6-billion a year in infrastructure. Sixty per cent of this would be spent on new infrastructure, with 40% going to maintain old infrastructure. It had also recently launched Green Bonds to fund specific projects from water meter installations and upgrading reservoirs to sewerage plants.
“We should not have to rely so heavily on banks such as the African Development Bank and the Brics bank, as those grants are conditional.”
De Lille challenged African governments and business to change their approach.
“Africa must realise that the world owes us nothing. We need to lead as Africans, especially in our cities, as cities are the drivers of change. We have to do it ourselves and manage urbanisation.”
She also took a swipe at cities and governments that do not follow up on international conferences, such as COP 21, as well as their own plans.
“Implementation must take place. We can’t write policies and do analysis year after year, and not implement.”
The Mother City mayor said Cape Town had made great connections with other African cities. More direct flights to Cape Town had also been laid on, including from cities such as Addis Ababa, Maputo and Luanda.
GAMA is a member of FIDIC. The conference has attracted 250 delegates from 17 African countries.