BLOGGING THE VIEW: Remembering the KZN floods 2 years on

It's hard to believe the devastating KZN floods were already two years ago. But have the lessons been learnt and are South African cities better prepared to deal with climate change?

It might feel like a lifetime ago, but it has only been two years since KZN suffered one of its biggest climatic catastrophes as rain lashed the province from 11 to 13 April.

As we prepare for some of the most pivotal elections in our 30-year democracy on 29 May, it’s worth remembering what happened two years ago, the role government played, and the remnants of that devastation that remain today.

1. What caused it?
From 8 April 2022, a slow-moving storm called Issa arrived, bringing extended periods of heavy rain to the province, with the eThekwini region particularly hard hit. Durban had more than 300mm of rain in just 24 hours, which is four times the average for the whole month of April.

2. What was the impact?
Flooding and mudslides were experienced across the greater Durban area, with more than 40 000 people affected. Reports indicate that more than 440 people died and a further 63 were reported missing. By 14 April 2022, more than R245-million in flood-related claims were made to insurance agencies. The total cost of repairing infrastructure damage was around the R17-billion mark.

3. What caused the floods?
Climate change has resulted in more severe and extreme weather events, which are set to continue. However, this is not new information and the reality is that the impact could have been significantly diminished if government had been more effective in preparing South African cities for such disasters.

4. What exacerbated the floods?
Poor infrastructure, urban sprawl and mismanagement of resources all contributed to the disaster. Drainage systems have not been maintained with inadequate waste collection causing blockages. Rivers have not been dredged or flood retention basins built to address possible flooding. Informal settlements and urban sprawl into flood-prone zones with limited infrastructural reinforcement mean South Africa’s poorest citizens are most at risk.

5. What are the long-term effects?
Been to the Durban beachfront lately? No, that’s probably because of the risk of E.coli right? Undoubtedly a lack of infrastructure maintenance meant the April 2022 floods damaged eight sewerage treatment plants, resulting in literal faeces along Durban’s beaches. There was significant damage to the water supply, impacting the drinking water, as well as electrical infrastructure with power outages – outside of load-shedding – still a problem. Some two years on and this is still a problem.

6. What can be done?
Governments around the world need to admit that severe weather systems are now the norm – and to be proactive. South Africa does have a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, but as with everything, it needs to be implemented effectively – and not mired in corruption and dodgy tender deals. Urban planning and climate change mitigation approaches must be prioritised, and people afforded homes away from flood zones. Parks and green spaces need to be established as carbon sinks.

This is as much a socio-economic issue as it is a climate one, which puts the power in your hands. Make your mark on 29 May!




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