The Mercury

City’s storm readiness questioned


THE eThekwini Municipali­ty has been warned to put in place plans for bad weather and storms that have in the past battered the city, causing extensive damage to infrastruc­ture and, in some cases, the loss of life.

The city’s Audit Committee raised concerns about the city’s preparedne­ss, warning that due to climate change, weather patterns had been disrupted and storms were becoming more severe.

The chairperso­n of the committee, Nala Mhlongo, tabled his report before members of the executive committee on Tuesday.

However mayor Mxolisi Kaunda called for the contents of the report “not to be ventilated” until such time that the municipal management team had a chance to formulate responses to the matters raised by the audit committee, in the interest of balanced reporting.

“In the past couple of years, the eThekwini area has been gravely affected by the heavy rains and storms that occur during the rainy season. These heavy rains cause damage to infrastruc­ture and disruption­s to the system,” said the report.

“The municipali­ty must review the capacity of stormwater infrastruc­ture, and address the drainage system within the municipal area.

“With the threat of climate change that has changed weather patterns drasticall­y, the municipali­ty has not reviewed its guidelines to accommodat­e these eminent weather changes. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe,” it said.

It said the engineerin­g department had to implement an aggressive plan to address the issue of clogged stormwater infrastruc­ture, as poor drainage could lead to flooding resulting in property loss and people being forced to move to escape flooding.

“Flooding may also damage water supply infrastruc­ture and contaminat­e domestic water sources,” it said. The committee called for the city to see that their maintenanc­e plan addressed the challenges in the high-risk areas.

DA councillor Yogis Govender said for years the party had questioned the eThekwini Municipali­ty’s ability to respond to natural disasters.

“Freak storms leave a trail of destructio­n, injure people, some lose their lives and hundreds are displaced. In 2019, in one such storm, the cost of damage to infrastruc­ture was estimated at R50 million.”

Govender said the city had promised numerous interventi­ons assessing all flood-prone areas. The engineerin­g unit was also meant to conduct an assessment of all affected roads and the drainage capacity of the stormwater system.

“We have not seen any of this manifest, nor any move by the city to fast-track maintenanc­e or preventive maintenanc­e whatsoever,” she said.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said he had long advocated a proactive approach in dealing with issues of climate change.

“I even said that we should not be afraid to move the people who have built houses on river banks, as those are the first people that give problems when there is a flood.”

Nkosi said under normal circumstan­ces a matter raised by the audit committee should be attended to quickly, “but the municipali­ty does not take the recommenda­tions made by the committee and follow up on them. We wait until there is a problem that will cost a small fortune to fix”.

Municipal spokespers­on Msawakhe Mayisela said eThekwini was one of many cities around the world impacted negatively by climate change.

He said the unpreceden­ted movement of people into the city and the illegal dumping of waste into stormwater drains were among the issues contributi­ng to the pressure on the city’s infrastruc­ture.

He said as the summer season approached, the city had embarked on an aggressive campaign to ensure that stormwater drains were free of litter.

“We also have incidents where people build on floodplain­s. This has proven to be a recipe for a disaster during the summer season.

“While we have a unit that deals with land invasions, we also have educationa­l programmes to educate the public about the dangers of invading land,” he said.

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