Purpose of the Project

To explore how a ‘business unusual’ approach that encourages cross-sectoral planning and decision-making, broad stakeholder engagement and a focus on the city’s natural resources as the base for adaptation, can enhance efforts to manage geographic units such as catchments, as key climate change adaptation tools within eThekwini Municipality. The project aims to demonstrate climate change adaptation ‘in action’ to cities locally and globally, and to influence broader city planning and management around issues such as biodiversity conservation and climate change, to ensure that Durban’s resilience to climate change is enhanced.

One of the most significant outputs from COP 17/CMP 7 for Durban, was the Durban Adaptation Charter (DAC). The DAC committed its signatories to a number of actions towards enhanced adaptation, including incorporating climate change adaptation into city planning, addressing governance and institutional issues in relation to project implementation, prioritizing the enhancement of natural ecosystems as part of a climate change response, building government and non-government partnerships and developing suitable measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems to assess the progress made in adapting to climate change.

While good in theory, the implementation of these principles is extremely challenging. If Durban is to lead in this arena, it is critical to begin to demonstrate practical examples of how these principles can be incorporated into projects on the ground. The EPCPD is therefore currently playing a lead role in coordinating a number of city sectors to develop a conceptual and management framework for the uMhlangane catchment that will bring these sectors together to work towards implementing projects that collectively contribute to enhanced climate change adaptation within the catchment. The project provides an important opportunity to investigate the complex institutional and governance issues that can either enhance or undermine progress in projects of this nature. It also provides an opportunity to investigate how progress can be monitored and reported on in a meaningful way, something that has not been achieved globally. This project is also being integrated into the CEBA programme.

Background to the uMhlangane Catchment
The uMhlangane catchment represents a microcosm of the developmental challenges faced by Durban, and is characterised by a poorly functioning river system, high levels of environmental degradation, and high levels of poverty and unemployment. On top of this, there is little integration of project activities within the catchment, resulting in an inefficient use of city resources. Climate change will exacerbate all of these challenges.
The figure above shows the extent of the uMhlangane Catchment

The uMhlangane catchment, however, also provides an opportunity to demonstrate how a better managed system can in fact become a key climate change adaptation tool for a city like Durban that is expected to experience impacts such as higher temperatures, more flooding events, and more periods of drought. Relevant climate adaptation responses could include, for example, the rehabilitation of wetlands that help to control flooding, investment in urban agriculture that will contribute towards food security, through stream cleaning projects that improve water quality, the implementation of different town planning models (e.g. densification) to minimise impact on remaining open spaces, and through the provision of green jobs that contribute towards improved livelihoods. Already, a number of such projects exist within the uMhlangane catchment, making the area an ideal starting point to begin to look at how to begin to do things in new, innovative and integrated ways in response to the developmental challenges of the city, and more specifically to the challenge of climate change.

Current activities
The project has already drawn together a cross-sectoral city team to work together to investigate what it means to implement climate adaptation planning at the scale of a catchment. Sectors currently represented in the team include the Coastal Stormwater and Catchment Management Department (focusing on wetland rehabilitation and stormwater management), Economic Development Unit’s ‘Green Corridor Project’ (focusing on job creation and social upliftment through initiatives such as rehabilitation of open space, effective management of public open spaces and creation of sport and recreational opportunities), eThekwini Water Services Unit (focused on monitoring water quality and investigating energy efficient wastewater treatment works), PINK (Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu) ABM (focusing on social and economic issues), Framework Planning (focused on planning issues such as densification) and the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (focused on the overall climate change adaptation objectives, and the coordination of the project).

The International and Governance Relations Department is also involved in helping to facilitate an ongoing climate change partnership with the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen in Germany, a city that is currently working with Durban in implementing certain components of the project. This partnership with Bremen has also facilitated a number of technical exchange visits between the two cities and has provided funding for pilot projects within the uMhlangane catchment. These interactions have been critical opportunities for learning and exchange of ideas within the programme.