Cape Town has an extensive coastline, lots of wetlands and winters marked by heavy rains and stormy seas. These both count as major assets to the city, but also pose significant risks. They provide economic opportunities, recreational spaces, fresh water and a strong sense of place, but also cause damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure from large storm surges, sand movement and flooding. These interactions have long been a feature of the city, but are becoming even more marked as the city continues to grow and the climate changes under increasing human influences. Changes in the nature and scale of these risks makes managing them more pressing, as well as more challenging and complex. This is particularly true in contexts such as Cape Town, where the level of socio-economic inequality is very high, many parts of the city are informal, i.e. outside of formal planning, regulation and public service provision, and where relatively new government mandates, structures and processes are being worked through.

The power of collaborative governance in managing the risks associated with flooding and sea-level rise in Cape Town has been the focus of a three-year research project undertaken by the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, the Stockholm Environment Institute and partner institutions, working closely with the City of Cape Town, and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The Cape of Storms booklet provides a synopsis of the findings from the study, written primarily for practitioners, residents of flood affected areas, civic leaders, government officials and local politicians. It looks at the dynamic nature of the Cape coastline; how stormy seas, rising sea levels, ecologically sensitive beaches, dunes and river mouths, and urban development all interact along the coast, making it a complex space to manage. There are many competing visions for how the coast should be used and power struggles over who decides. The booklet looks at what is currently being done, led by the City of Cape Town, to develop a rigorous coastal policy and management framework for responding consistently and appropriately to the pressures of urban development, economic growth, addressing socio-economic inequality and a changing climate. It argues for a holistic approach that prioritizes institutional and ecological measures for buffering coastal risks, before resorting to more hard engineering solutions that are expensive, irreversible and do not deal well with uncertainty in nature and scale of emerging risks.

Download the booklet (PDF, 5457kb)