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Flooding in the informal settlement of Egoli, Cape Town

Children playing in still-standing water, illustrating how the water stays in the paths of the settlement after only one night of rainfall (photo by Laura Drivdal 1.9.2010)

Introduction

The aim of this report is to provide data and a descriptive understanding of flooding in one particular settlement that is affected: Egoli, in the Philippi Horticultural Area, Cape Town. By avoiding long theoretical discussions, this report provides empirical insight both for academics as well as for a wider audience on how such hazards, and other problems that are connected to this, are dealt with.

Egoli is one of the few informal settlements located in Philippi Horticultural Area, which is sparsely populated since most of the area is designated to farming. It looks much like an island of informal settlers, and contrasts how informal settlements in urban Cape Town usually are imagined. According to community leaders, most of these informal settlements are on private land and some are facing eviction charges.

Methods

This report is based on qualitative and quantitative data collected in the period 24.08.2010 to 31.08.2011. The data collecting process includes over 35 visits to the settlement during this period, carrying out participant observation, interviews with residents, a survey covering most of the settlement, workshops and engaging a “flooding observer‟.

Interviews and focus groups were useful, but particularly useful was visiting the informal settlement often (occasionally when it was raining) and engaging in informal conversations with inhabitants. Moreover, engaging one of the young inhabitants as “research assistant‟ / “flooding observer‟ for six weeks during the winter 2011 was very useful. The flooding observer noted comments and took pictures of the issues she found relevant, and these notes and pictures from her form a large part of the report. Not only did this give interesting data and perspectives, but it also increased the confidence and interest of the assistant to work with the issue.

The report was also validated by the flooding observer and some of the community leaders.

Summary

The inhabitants of Egoli experience flooding every winter, as the rainwater does not sink, but stays in the paths and shacks. Since the settlement is on private land, which restricts local government‟s intervention possibilities, there has not been proper upgrading, such as the installation of drainage systems. In addition, since there is no electricity and inhabitants often cannot afford paraffin or generators, the combination of being wet and cold throughout the winter affects the general health of many.

Inhabitants seem to deal with the flooding in different ways, and they do get warnings and a little aid from each other, the community leaders, Disaster Risk Management (municipality) and NGOs. However, this help is not sufficient, as the shacks and paths are in a bad condition. Moreover, relocation as an option is also problematic. Since many of the inhabitants were born and grew up in the surrounding areas, many are very connected to the place, and expressed that they are afraid to be relocated to an area with which they are not familiar.

Acknowledgements

Report written by Laura Drivdal, PhD student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), in November 2011 as part of the IDRC / DIFID sponsored project, “Flooding under Climate Change Risk” (FliCCR), at UCT.The research was carried out in collaboration with the community leaders and other residents of Egoli, who also did a great part of the data collection and monitoring. They have also read and validated this report.

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