Building adaptive capacity to flood risk in Philippi, Cape Town, through infrastructure-led planning interventions

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

There is a global trend of increase in urban population growth rates. Much of the population growth occurs in cities of developing countries, with high percentages of the populations living in informal settlements on the peripheries of cities. The often unplanned expansion of cities is increasingly exposing a large number of urban residents and economic assets to disaster risk. The City of Cape Town (CCT) is no exception to the rapid expansion of informal settlements. Heavy winter rainfall leads to flooding in Cape Town, with severe flooding impacts mainly manifesting in low income settlements. Flooding occurs due to the natural setting of Cape Town, and due to lack of adequate water-related infrastructure in some parts of the city. Although infrastructure interventions for flood risk reduction have had some success in reducing flood impacts in some parts of Cape Town, much of the local government response to flooding disasters has been reactive, short term and generally not designed to effectively support informal settlements. The township of Philippi is highly impacted by flooding events, which often compromise the township's safety and public health, and destroy livelihood assets, leaving adverse impacts on local livelihoods. This dissertation uses Philippi as a case study to assess and investigate how an infrastructure-led planning approach to flood risk can provide solutions and contribute to building better adaptive capacity to flooding, for a rapidly growing population exposed to flooding and lacking adequate water infrastructure services. Utilizing policy review, key informant interviews, Census data, geospatial data mapping and observation, this study identifies the major impediments to enhancement of flood resilience through infrastructure planning in Philippi. It explores the opportunities and potential that Philippi has to set precedent for flood-resilient developments in Cape Town. A Spatial Flood Resilience Framework is presented as a spatial planning tool providing an infrastructure-led planning approach to flood risk and guiding decision-making towards effectively making Philippi more floodresilient. The study highlights the need for risk-informed local plans to reduce disaster risk in Cape Town and identifies collaborative governance as a significant aspect of the planning and implementation processes for flood risk reduction, as it integrates different actors in working towards a common agenda. This study aims to identify and improve the role of urban planning in moving towards flood resilient neighbourhoods in Cape Town. The study highlights the role of planning in ensuring that development avoids or mitigates flood risk, and identifies flood resilience as a valuable aspect of the spatial quality of a city. Enhancing flood resilience is an essential premise for the facilitation of development in areas of disaster risk and a major step toward socio-spatial justice in the city. The research conducted for the study contributes to the Global South research base and provides a possible precedent for future spatial development plans regarding flood risk in cities of the Global South.