The city of Jo'burg says climate change is no longer a possibility, but a reality. It has urged communities to partner with it to protect the environment and to alleviate the impacts of climate change
Johannesburg has over 180 informal settlements. And poverty, access to clean water and hunger are huge challenges in these dwellings. In most cases, people living in such poor conditions are most affected by climate change. Extreme weather conditions such as floods, for example, hit them the hardest. In the absence of a plan to totally eradicate informal settlements, the city of Jo'burg recognises that it has to improve living conditions in these communities in order to prevent the harsh impacts of climate change.
"It is a big, big challenge", says Peter Manganye, Director for Environmental Health in the city of Jo'burg. "I don't think we can totally get rid of them. But what we can do is to take development to those areas by improving the quality of life there. In the City of Jo'burg there are about 180 informal settlements in very diverse areas. Part of our process to try and get rid of them is providing better alternative accommodation that supports health, economic activity and social aspects of people's lives", says Maganye.
Climate change does not only affect one's living environment, it also directly impacts on the general health of the population, bringing with it many diseases such as malaria and cholera. High and humid temperatures are normally breeding grounds for malaria. As a result, there is a need for cooler places to live in to avoid possible outbreaks of such diseases. Director for Air Quality and Climate Change at the City of Jo'burg, Barney Kgope, says planting many trees alongside other cooling mechanisms will help regulate high temperatures.
"For future human settlements we have to have certain kinds of structures that will be able to thermo-regulate properly. We must also have trees to increase the canopy cover so that it is relatively cooler. That will hopefully help our dwellings not to use air conditioning... canopy cover using trees as a species to help achieve the purpose of increasing shade and help address future challenges of heat waves", Kgope says.
Activities such as burning oil and coal and the fuels being emitted by our cars contribute to polluting the air. This is one of the main causes of climate change.
Kgope says there is a need for an effective public transport system for the people of Johannesburg. He says this will, in turn, reduce the number of cars on the roads.
"The city realises that transport is one of the biggest challenges.
Transforming that sector means making sure there is adequate public transport, people have access to that transport system and, then, encourage them with incentives to use the public transport system and leave their cars at home. That will help us enhance our air quality. We would like to see an integrated transport system", says Kgope.
The city says residents can also contribute to lessening the impact of climate change. For instance, they can help save water. Instead of using tap water to do all of the house chores, collect rain water in a tank or bucket and use it to water your garden or even flush down your toilet.
"These are basic things. We can car pool to reduce our emissions that pollute the air. We can look at starting to separate our waste at home - that's recycling. We can install low flow shower heads at home, we can begin to invest in solar water geysers, we can encourage planting of trees in strategic areas next to our homes. Those are simple things we, as individuals, can start doing at home", Kgope advises.