“When you build a pipe across a stream, it will get swept away, even if it is a place that hardly ever has flooding,” he said. But, he adds, gathering data is a useful part of moving forward.
“That is what we are doing. Data is the foundation of sustainable infrastructure decisions, and in eThekwini we are integrating our city-level data to inform decisions.”
He said that “without a concerted effort to transform government institutions”, they are designed to be inefficient.
He said a major stumbling block for all cities is the “multiple layers of decision-making that have to happen even when you just want to buy a pen”.
To work against the clock of climate change and a burgeoning urban population, delays can result in the wrong decisions being made once all the layers of decision-making have been completed.
He urged officials in all cities to gather and use data to maximum effect. “Data gives not just policymakers but citizens too an understanding of the state of affairs in their city,” he said.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), disaster events like those witnessed in eThekwini are going to become more frequent as the climate crisis intensifies.
“Climate change is a global phenomenon that will increasingly affect urban life,” according to the UNEP, “Rising global temperatures cause sea levels to rise, increase the number of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms, and increase the spread of tropical diseases. All these have costly implications for cities’ basic services, infrastructure, housing, human livelihoods and health.”
At the same time, cities are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions, with “transport and buildings being among the largest contributors”.