Flood Management for Risk-Informed Urban Development in eThekwini

Review of the second face-to-face event of the learning process from 7 to 9 November 2023 in eThekwini, South Africa

Photo: Connective Cities

The Second Live Event for the Learning Process on Flood Management for Risk-Informed Urban Development was hosted in eThekwini, South Africa from November 7th until 9th 2023. Building upon the lessons of the previous session in Windhoek, Namibia, the second installment of the yearlong learning process allowed for a great diversity of participants, ranging from academics, technical experts to regional, national and municipal governmental and/or non-governmental representatives. Participants reconvened and continued the peer-to-peer exchange and sharing of methodological approaches, for finding risk informed solutions in their respective cities. More than 40 participants from 14 different cities across 12 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, the SADC Region and Germany, engaged in a face-to-face consultation and intervision round-tables benefitting from a wide range of knowledge and experiences. GIZ's Connective Cities hosted the event together with the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) and the Resilience Initiative Africa (RIA), to promote cooperation and coordination across sectors and strengthen the capacities of regional, national and local state and non-state actors to implement risk informed development in urban disaster risk management.

The key corner stone of the Learning Process is the framework of Risk informed Urban Development (RIUD), a newfound path towards urban resilience that has been gaining momentum within the landscape of greater development. Dr. Mmaphaka Tau (GIZ-RIA), emphasized the importance of having all actors responsible for the governance of cities such as NGOs, academics, municipal, provincial, national, and regional actors, local communities, and technical experts working jointly to ensure that development pathways are coherent, reduce existing risk and prevent the creation of new risks. Under the RIUD framework set for the learning process, the thematic foci included the following structuring and/or guiding entry points for the development of solutions for RIUD including inter alia DRR and climate change adaptation strategies, bankable concepts and/or projects:

  1. Understanding and managing the various and interconnected drivers of flood risks, that cities are exposed to.
  2. Identifying possible green infrastructure and nature-based approaches as risk informed solutions to address flooding in cities.
  3. Improving the flows of risk communication and risk governance

The workshop was opened with speeches from the Deputy Mayor of eThekwini, Zandile Myeni, and the Mayor of Cologne, Andreas Wolter, both of whom detailed the significant risk flooding posed to their respective communities. eThekwini and Cologne both lay along significant waterways, the former exposed to vast coast lines of the Indian Ocean, and the latter split by the historic Rhein River.

eThekwini is no stranger to the perilous nature of flood damage, just last Spring the city faced heavy damage from floods which barreled through its community. eThekwini municipal representatives demonstrated their ability to learn from the experience and aim to make their city risk-informed and more resilient. This is particularly relevant in the context of development, as communities need to consider an ever-broader array of interdependent, yet transboundary and dynamic risks.

Mayor Andreas Wolter, a sitting member of Climate Alliance's Executive board, emphasized that resilience building and climate justice require bolstering global funds and grant mechanisms to ensure that local governments and national governments can sufficiently invest in RIUD. Mayor Wolter alluded to the 2021 Western European floods, that caused unprecedented damages in North Rhine-Westphalia. While reconstruction and build back better programs are still in implementation, the Mayor of Cologne stressed that Germany does not have the capacity to carry out the scale of reconstruction needed, should this recur. From the lens of climate justice, He appealed towards the urgent need for mobilizing climate funds and investing into preparedness and prevention measures to protect populations and developmental gains, especially in cities and their urban catchments.

"Disaster management is everybody’s business, and its success depends on collective efforts.” Mr. Thabo Khupari, representing the Head of the National Disaster Management Center of South Africa (Chief Directorate: Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery Coordination of the NDCM) echoed the urgent need for mobilizing funds and investing into risk-informed urban development by speaking on the importance of preparedness. Mr. Khupari spoke about the increasing weather and climate change related risks, and their link to social and sectoral vulnerabilities as well as the urbanization trends in South Africa. While these urbanization trends speak to the shared continental challenges on the “urbanization of poverty (townships, informal settlements, and inner cities), Mr. Khupari highlighted the relevance of RIUD as well as the role of the NDMC. In doing so he provided insights to the legal frameworks, their architecture (Institutional capacity, risk assessments, risk reduction, response and recovery) and the enablers (information & communication, training, education & research, and funding) for RIUD in South Africa. A selection of measures as i.e. understanding flood lines, designing systems to separate rainwater from sewer systems, enforcing spatial development practices, building codes, etc. where also highly appreciated by the participants.

Creating Linkages & Good Practices

One of the five objectives of the second live-event of the Learning Process Flood Management for Risk-Informed Urban Development was to enable the participating cities to further enhance their project ideas and develop concrete solutions through the peer-to-peer exchanges, for submission to potential financing entities and/or implementation in their respective cities.

Before diving into the peer-to-peer exchanges, each session kicked-off with input speakers to disseminate their experiences and methodological approaches on RIUD.

To set the stage for the workshop, Mr. Emmanuel Letebele, Manager from the Spatial Planning department of eThekwini municipality spoke about the city’s experience with the Working Group on Risk informed Urban Development, and how the city was able to access the City Climate Finance Gap Fund (CCGF), through the continued engagement with the joint initiative. Speaking more on financing was Ms. Evelynn Musonda from Lusaka City Council, detailing every step taken by the city to access the CCGF in financing the pre-feasibility study for their project titled “Lusaka Flood Management for Climate Adaptation and City Resilience.” The experiences of eThekwini and Lusaka in transforming simple project ideas, into bankable projects is a crucial objective not only for the Second Live Event, but for the entire Learning Process. To aid our cities in funding and resource identification, Mr Japeth Habinshuti from the Global Covenant of Mayors spoke to the participants on the scope of the CCGF’s GAP fund, the eligibility criteria, and most importantly how cities can access the fund. His input was supplemented by examples of projects in the Sub-Saharan Africa region that were successful in obtaining financing from the GAP fund, such as the “Identification and prioritization of investments in Nature based Solutions in Kinshasa” and the “Solar tricylces for public transport in Danané, Côte d'Ivoire.”  

Next to accessing financial resources an experiences, the peer-to-peer exchange sessions enjoyed city-led inputs on methodologies and technical approaches from across various thematic and geographic backgrounds, all speaking on also technical aspects for RIUD.

Though their knowledge-sets and localities differed, as Dr. Martin Cassel from the Cologne Sewage and Drainage company stated, if one approach or method was found to be effective in one afflicted area, it is likely to be contextualized and be applicable in others places. This portion of the engagement was essential in demonstrating good practices and innovative approaches from the city of Cologne. Dr. Cassel shared with the participants the various flood risk and hazard maps, GIS based risk analysis tools (i.e. GIS flood/hazard mapping), and flood risk questionnaires developed by the city, to inform flood risk governance, to avoid disasters from flooding hazards. Mr. Reinfred Naedeer from the National Disaster Management Organization in Ghana spoke about how local communities were empowered and mobilized for the preparation of flood management plans in Ghana, and the different community capacity development measures undertaken by the organization to improve the overall awareness and ability to respond to floods by local communities in Accra, and wider regions of Ghana. Mrs. Isabel Njihia from the UNDRR Regional Office for Africa spoke on the MCR2030, and how participating cities can join the global platform of cities, all with the common goal of ensuring cities to become resilient and sustainable by 2030.  

Peer-to-Peer Learning

The peer-to-peer exchange was applauded for the depth of the engagement, as well as its ability to facilitate strategic collaboration among the diverse range of participants. Discussions led by the cities and complemented by the experts were centered on enhancing the project ideas that were developed by the participants from the First Live Event. From the 14 participating cities, 11 project ideas were identified and were divided into three groups.

City of Kinshasa (DRC), eThekwini municipality (ZA) and Alfred Nzo District (ZA) Municipality formed Group 1, with their project ideas all centered around “Local Community Capacity Development.” Gabarone City (BW), Maputo City Municipality (MZ) and Marienthal Municipality (NA) comprised Group 2, with project ideas focused on the development of “Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems”. Group 3 on developing “Nature Based Solutions for flood management” saw Garowe City (SO), Ablekuma Central Municipality (GH), Dar es Salaam (TZ), Lusaka City Council (ZM) and Polokwane Local Municipality (ZA).  These working groups enabled participants to test their approaches in a setting with an array of relevant stakeholders, which enabled for thorough discussion, and positive feedback.

A major take away from this event was that the solutions are within us.

Dr. Maliga Reddy, Associate Director in the Department of Public Management and Economics at the Durban University of Technology, commented on the seamless nature of these exchanges, which she characterized as respectful, productive collaboration and discourse on the very real and yet awkward challenges. Dr. Maliga Reddy additionally detailed four key learnings for developing and nurturing resilience:

  1. Regional and local collaboration for global resilience: Cities worldwide can benefit from collaborative efforts such as this event.
  2. Cities must incorporate RIUD into their planning:  Assessing and addressing specific flood risk is a fundamental component.
  3. Innovative technical solutions for flood management are essential: Early warning systems/modelling, resilient infrastructure.
  4. Community engagement and involvement, as well as understanding of social dynamics are pivotal: Cities require adaptive governance structures/responsiveness and accountability in the face of evolving risks.

Alongside the peer-to-peer exchange and hearing from the experts on good practices and innovative approaches, eThekwini Municipality also took the entire delegation on a study tour, to learn more about the Transformative Riverine Management Program (TRMP). The TRMP is a premier example of nature-based solutions, and how restoration and protection of the rivers flowing through the municipality have led to a multitude of positive impacts such as improving local water quality, protection against flooding, creation of economic opportunities and revitalizing communities.

Moving forward

The whole learning process is designed to span 12 months, comprising of live events such as the one in eThekwini and Windhoek, but also through various insight sessions, as well as expert-exchange missions. Connective Cities and the RIA, and the participating municipalities are eagerly anticipating the next phase of this transformative journey. By engaging in peer-to-peer learning and feedback loops, participants look forward to developing their innovative ideas into bankable solutions, that will aim to reduce existing risk, prevent the creation of future risks, and for urban development to occur in a resilient manor.

The learning process on flood management for risk-informed urban development has started with the intention to make cities and municipalities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. This collaborative effort will pave the way for a more resilient future, fostering a global network of cities and municipalities united in their commitment to combat climate change. This concludes the second live event for the Learning Process on Flood Management for Risk-Informed Urban Development.

If you are interested in taking part of activities such as this Learning Process, please join the Connective Cities Community.  

Further information:

Risk Informed Urban Development in Sub-Saharan Africa


All photos: Connective Cities

Connective Cities

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