Local sustainability in South Africa : Cape Town and EThekwini


ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

1 - Cape Town: Integrating ecosystems and biodiversity into urban development

The City of Cape Town showcases how biodiversity conservation can become an integral part ofsustainable urban planning and development. Characterized by unique and varied vegetation habitats, Cape Town’s unplanned urban expansion could put a global biodiversity hotspot at serious risk. In response, the local government established a Biodiversity Network in an effort to protect the unique landscape and biologically diverse areas.

City profile

ICLEI Case Study # 138 Cape Town

Population: 3.7 million (2007)

City Size: 2,461 km2

Membership: Cape Town joined ICLEI in 1994

Appr. municipal budget per capita: US$ 461

GDP per Capita: US $ 15,250</quote>

1.1 - Cape Town: Recognizing the importance of urban biodiversity

Located in a global biodiversity hotspot, the city’s urban expansion threatens the patterns and processes of this exceptional landscape and biodiversity. Mountain National Park, one of eight inscribed components of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Natural), is a ‘Global Biodiversity Hotspot’, characterized by unique plants species. At the same time, Cape Town is a highly income-segregated city and access to well-managed, natural open space is not evenly spread across all income-groups. There is now a growing recognition of the need to defend this unique natural environment as part of Cape Town’s, and South Africa’s, natural and cultural heritage, and to provide access to quality open space for urban dwellers. The establishment of Biodiversity Network (BioNet) in 2009 seeks to achieve this.

1.2 - Significant benefits from biodivesity planning

The established BioNet, which can be understood as an ecological corridor, provides the basis for the conservation of a ‘Global Biodiversity Hotspot’. Given the global significance of local and urban biodiversity, the long-term protection of vegetation and the conservation of biodiversity are important at the global and local level. The BioNet protects biologically diverse areas and improves access to natural open space for environmental education. Vibrant open green spaces also are a valuable part of urban wellbeing, for all income groups, especially with regard to recreation and leisure. It also brings added local economic benefits to Cape Town through ecotourism.

The establishment of the BioNet has resulted in the best possible configuration of a network that conserves the threatened habitats of the Cape Town. It represents the most feasible selection of areas to meet conservation targets, as well as protecting associated wetlands and rivers within the city’s administrative boundary. The implementation of the BioNet will secure for future generations a unique set of habitats represented nowhere else on the planet.

The BioNet ensures that biodiversity conservation is mainstreamed into the broader city planning framework. The BioNet is being integrated into the ‘Spatial Development Framework’ for Cape Town, thus ensuring that land use is directly informed by critically important biodiversity and prioritized ecological areas. Furthermore, there is now a strong participation and stakeholder engagement framework in place which is vital for local based action, whether it be in biodiversity protection or the general urban planning and development framework.

The BioNet was fundamental in overcoming an important issue of biodiversity conservation – privately owned lands. Ecology does not have boundaries and elements of the ecological network are within private lands. Therefore, the ‘BioNet Stewardship Program’ was developed to encourage private land owners to manage their land in a way that maintains the network. This program subsequently seeks to secure the long-term commitment by private land owners.

1.3 - Key components in establishing the bionet

The city’s Biodiversity Strategy (2002) was subsequently replaced by a ‘Local Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan’, which seeks to secure 60 per cent of the city’s Biodiversity Network by 2014. The BioNet must “effectively conserve and protect an adequately representative sample of all the unique biodiversity in Cape Town for the benefit of current and future generations”. The strategy is crucial to ensure, that appropriate, effective and efficient management plans and policies are developed and implemented at each of the primary biodiversity conservation areas, thus protecting the unique attributes of Cape Town’s habitats. Conservation planning in South Africa at all levels is based on the National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA), established in 2004. The BioNet is Cape Town’s particular fine scale response and conservation plan to the NSBA.

There were a number of stages and elements in the preparation of the framework for the implementation of the Biodiversity Network Strategy. In 2002, the City of Cape Town initiated a study to assess the potential for a conservation network, which would protect important habitat remnants within Cape Town’s urban boundary. This study identified and mapped vegetation via GIS, remote sensing and various other conservation planning technologies to identify manageable vegetation and for interlinking ecological corridors.

Similar methodologies were used for wetland and waterways, which complimented the terrestrial assessment. The resulting BioNet and its ancillary strategies were then integrated into the policy and planning framework. These informed the city’s Spatial Development Framework ensuring cross departmental recognition of the BioNet. The BioNet will be continuously revised and updated, as new and improved information becomes available, or as scientific methodologies improve. The BioNet was finalized and approved in 2009.

1.4 - Factors for success

Integrated long-term planning for biodiversity within the broader city planning framework is essential for achieving successful implementation. Communication between all departments, line functions, and with all stakeholders was a critical component in crafting a plan that is broadly supported by the city administration.

Making the case for biodiversity through political endorsement and a receptive political and institutional environment is crucial. In the context of competing needs for land and municipal resources, communication with and support by local politicians are among the most important ingredients for the BioNet. The value of biodiversity areas and ecosystem services needs to be properly expressed, such as its value for tourism, water management and ecosystem-based adaptation in the context of climate change.

Management of all conservation areas must be adequately funded for the sustainable management of biologically diverse and sensitive areas. Adequate funding and various mechanisms including private sector support are required to ensure the project gains momentum.

2 - EThekwini: mainstreaming climate change adaptation

EThekwini Municipality, also known as Durban, is a pioneering African example of how adaptation planning can be integrated into general planning and development frameworks. Risk and disaster management frameworks have been developed and are being implemented as part of the phased Municipal Climate Protection Program (MCPP).This provides the institutional basis for the city to build resilience, reduce risk of vulnerable groups, and to prepare for the negative impacts of climate change on the municipality.

City profile

Case Study # 139 EThekwini (Durban)

Population: 3.5 million (2010)

City Size: 2,297 km2

Membership: EThekwini joined ICLEI in 1994

Appr. municipal budget per capita: US$ 775

GDP per capita: US$ 6, 059</quote>

2.1 - EThekwini: A municipality’s climate adaptation strategy

African cities are rapidly urbanizing at a current annual growth rate of 3.3 per cent and are some of the most vulnerable urban centers in the world to climate change. For eThekwini this means an increase in extreme weather events leading to more frequent and intense floods and droughts, as well as rising sea levels. The impacts affect economic activities, human well-being and infrastructure. Physical infrastructure and ecosystems are already stressed by rapid urban growth. The urban poor, particularly those who live in informal settlements, are especially vulnerable. EThekwini, in an effort to meet these challenges, has been at the forefront of developing a robust local response to climate change. This response is the MCPP, introduced in 2004. It is a phased program, which focuses on climate change adaptation and enhances the city’s ability to cope with climate change impacts.

2.2 - Key institutional improvements in climate proofing

Climate adaptation strategies are now part of the municipality’s planning and institutional framework, namely through the ‘Integrated Development Plan’. Approval of the ‘Disaster Management Framework’ by council in 2009 provided a critical first step in the reconfiguration of the disaster management functions. This has been followed by the establishment of a Municipal Disaster Management Committee. This ensures that concerns regarding risk and issues relating to resilience building have been and can be fully assessed and subsequently addressed through the implementation of various policy initiatives. Furthermore, there now exists a robust institutional partnership between the Disaster Management Unit and Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD).

Various initiatives are now underway. An audited institutional risk assessment process is being undertaken across all municipal structures to ensure risks are identified, assessed, treated, monitored and reported on. An impact assessment of the local impact of climate change was undertaken as well as a carbon storage and sequestration analysis.

There has been a focus on tool development to assist in evaluating plans and policies within the costs associate with potential negative climate impacts. The first of these is an integrated assessment tool, which employs a stand-alone GIS platform that allows visualizing and overlaying the impacts of climate change in key sectors to help identify high risk areas. Climate change concerns could subsequently be integrated with the adaptation and disaster-linked citywide risk assessment process.

Municipal and community adaptation plans were drawn up, as well as other initiatives such as green roofs, event greening, and sea-level rise modeling. Initiatives and projects that have resulted from the MCPP include:

2.3 - The preperation of eThekwini’s climate adaptation plans

South Africa, and eThekwini in particular, has a long history of climate action and is a prominent signatory to various international agreements. The MCPP which was initiated in 2004, is the culmination of a long history of climate action, and has three main components:

  1. Ensuring the municipal adaptation is integrated into key activities and relevant departmental line functions.

  2. Community-based adaptation focusing on building capacity.

  3. A series of interventions focusing on challenges such as hydrological processes and sea-level rise.

This is a phased program, which has focused on climate change adaptation and enhancing the city’s ability to cope with climate change impacts. For eThekwini to achieve this aim, the MCPP was divided into four key phases:

Phase 1 Impact Assessment: Between 2004 and 2006, the MCPP undertook an initial assessment of local climate change impacts which culminated in the ‘Climatic Future for Durban Report’ (2006) which also proposed possible adaptation and mitigation responses.

Phase 2 Adaptation Planning: The next step was the development of the municipal and community adaptation plans in 2005. It included the Headline Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (HCCAS) published in 2006. This highlighted key interventions required by the municipality to adapt to climate change. This has been, and is being, extended through various adaptation initiatives including reforestation projects, potential sea level rise modeling, community adaptation plans and the development and implementation of municipal adaptation plans for the water, health and disaster management sectors. Since 2008 sector specific municipal adaptation plans were piloted in three high risk sectors: water, health and disaster management.

Phase 3 Developing the toolkit: Between 2007 and 2010, the development of an integrated assessment tool to evaluate and compare long-term city plans and policies against the impacts of climate change was conducted.

Phase 4 Mainstreaming: Initiatives have included the integration of climate change considerations into city planning and development by the creation of a Climate Protection Branch within the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) and the establishment of an Energy Office in 2009. Other interventions have included hosting a carbon neutral 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and COP17-CMP7 in Durban.

In addition, in 2008/2009 the first Energy Office in South Africa was created. Strategic environmental assessment of the spatial development plans has also been undertaken, where ecosystem services are given particular attention. For example, Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) programs, which ensure that protecting ecosystem services is intrinsic in the approach to the design and management of the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System. These areas are being united in the pioneering concept of Community-Ecosystem Based Adaptation (CEBA).

2.4 - Factors for success

Political Endorsement. An important aspect in the implementation of the policies was political endorsement. Political support for adaptation planning and developing sector specific adaptation plans is essential; this ensures that new adaptation strategies are fully aligned with existing business plans and development objectives. It also ensures that available funding and skills are available.

Research Input. Robust monitoring and evaluation which is supported by research is imperative to a successful technical implementation of the project. Research partnerships are essential so that evidence-based learning informs the roll-out of pilot tested adaptation strategies.

Learning by doing. The ‘learning by doing’ principle adopted by the eThekwini Municipality is a robust approach for the development of local urban adaptation strategies.

Local Sustainability 2012 Case study series: Showcasing progress in local sustainability

Published by :

In Partnership with :

  • Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind

  • United Nations Human Settlements Program UN-HABITAT

  • Study and editing team : Richard Simpson, Shay Kelleher, Monika Zimmermann, Rüdiger von Krosigk, Steven Bland (ICLEI World Secretariat, Bonn, Germany)


This case study series is part of the Local Sustainability 2012 study that consists of this publication and a global overview report (ICLEI 2012, Local Sustainability 2012: Taking stock and moving forward, Global Report).

To download both parts, visit local2012.iclei.org

ICLEI Case Studies 138-151 summarized in this Global Report are available in full length at www.iclei.org/casestudies.

ICLEI Global Reports are research and analytical reports produced by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. By featuring different themes and characters the ICLEI Global Report series contributes to international discussions and policy developments.

ICLEI Global Reports are available at www.iclei.org/globalreports or in print for a cover fee.

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The cases are presented in alphabetical order by world region and country, but are not representative for that region. Rather the presented cases are a cross-collection of sustainability themes across the world from cities that can be considered pioneering and especially advanced within their regional culture. Also the selection attempted to feature “not the usual suspects”. They illustrate the diversity of approaches to highlight global progress in local sustainability in cities and by local governments. Each presented case showcases progress towards urban sustainability. Firstly by providing an overview of the locally identified challenge and response. Secondly, highlighting significant achievements and results. Thirdly, detailing the process and actors involved in the preparation and implementation, and finally, key factors for the city’s success.

To dowload the complete study : local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/