Flooding in Cape Town’s informal settlements: barriers to collaborative urban risk governance

When managing urban flood risk, traditional flood risk management which prioritizes infrastructural and technical solutions is important but is not sufficient to reduce the risk to acceptable levels, particularly in informal settlements. Understanding how flood risk is governed needs to complement flood risk interventions in order to be able to move towards a more collaborative response to managing flood risk. Drawing on the case of Cape Town, South Africa, where annual flood events impact on many informal settlements, we identify barriers to collaborative governance that could be addressed to help to build a more holistic flood management approach that proactively reduces flood risk. Our focus is on local government as a key arena of flood risk management. Using a nodal governance framework, we assess the mentalities, technologies, resources and institutional structures of four different local government departments in the City of Cape Town and the extent to which they collaborate on flood risk management. Four key constraints to collaborative urban flood risk management are identified: the domination of a technocratic approach, lack of particular capacities, the challenge of how to share risk, and political contestation and short-termism. Unpacking the nature of nodal governance is a key step in identifying possibilities for collaboration and thus strengthening processes of urban flood management. This is particularly important for urban environmental risk management in the global South, which needs to engage with a development agenda that includes the politics of informality and the complexities of social, as well as environmental, change.


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher South African Geographical Journal
Year 2014
Author(s) Gina Ziervogela, Joy Waddella, Warren Smit & Anna Taylor
DOI 10.1080/03736245.2014.924867
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