Communicating Flooding Issues to the Public at Large
The coastal area of KwaZuluNatal is subject to regular flooding, ranging from severe regional flood events such as the 1987 floods when 300 people lost their lives to localised flash floods causing erosion damage. The city of Durban is particularly vulnerable to flood-related problems due to the large urban population and limited amount of developable land. In the past, residential and commercial/industrial development has taken place in flood prone areas placing lives and property at risk. The National Water Act of 1998 states that information relating to floods and potential risks must be made available to the public. The challenge for Durban, with hundreds of kilometres of rivers located in the municipal area, has been to develop a programme to gather flood-related information, identify the parties to whom it should be distributed, and distribute the information in an efficient and appropriate manner.
The use of geographical information systems (GIS) has enabled flood studies to be carried out quickly and in a uniform manner, with results being loaded directly into the Municipality’s GIS database. By storing the flood-related information in the GIS environment, it is available to other departments within the Municipality and also the general public via the eThekwini website. The main users of the information in the Municipality are the City Engineering Unit, Disaster Management Department and Development and Planning Department. In addition to the internet, the information is disseminated to the public through direct mailing and word based community Disaster Management Committees. Future developments will include devising better and more efficient ways of informing those living in informal settlements of the risks they are exposed to and procedures to follow during flood events, active flood warning systems using radar forecasting and empowering community Disaster Management Committees.
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