Photography by:
  • Amanda van der Walt

Intersections between disaster vulnerability and sustainability (2015)

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The expansion of low income housing and the growth of informal settlements in the GCR have largely followed spatial patterns prescribed under the apartheid regime. This has allowed for individuals to live in poorly serviced locations far from work opportunities and urban amenities in areas that are unsuitable for dense residential development. The result is varied settlement vulnerability across Gauteng, with some settlements more susceptible to environmental hazards and social influences than others.

The intersection between disaster vulnerability and sustainability was an umbrella project consisting of a series of sub-projects that together explored settlement vulnerability and sustainability and the risks faced by settlements as a consequence of their physical location. Sub-projects that fell under the broader project theme of sustainability and vulnerability had a particular focus on the physical environment and the ‘locational disadvantage’ of settlements that are exposed to different environmental risks associated with dolomitic limestone, flood prone areas and mine residues. In these instances, communities had become ‘doubly burdened’ as a consequence of their location which allow them to become more vulnerable to natural disasters.

The various sub-projects brought about policy insights on the varied locational risks associated with settlements and their physical environment. These insights were used to inform settlement planning and design to reduce the vulnerability and increase the sustainability of communities over time. This project also feeds into a growing body of literature around the complexities of designing, upgrading and managing settlements in Gauteng and South Africa.

The project began in 2011/12 with investigations into settlements affected by dolomite limestone and risks associated with the karst landscape and flooding. In 2012/13 a flood hazard data collection exercise was undertaken along with the collection of oblique photography depicting different low-income settlement types on dolomite. A conference paper on flooding in the GCR was presented to ‘FloodRisk2012’ in the Netherlands in November 2012.

2012/13 also saw preliminary research towards and writing up of a paper exploring Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and its governance in the GCR. An overview of this work can be seen in the presentation below, which was presented at the launch of the 2013 GCRO’s State of the GCR review. The output of the AMD work took the format of an Occasional paper, which was completed during 2014/15.


GCRO outputs

Bobbins, K. (2015) ‘AMD and its governance in the Gauteng City-Region’, GCRO Occasional Paper 9.


‘Investigating Acid Mine Drainage and its Governance in the Gauteng City-Region’, GCRO Presentations.


Bobbins, K. (2013) ‘The legacy and prospects of the Gauteng City-Region’s mining landscapes’, in Zubir, S. & Brebbia, C. (eds) Sustainable City VIII. Southampton: WIT Press.

Last updated 20 October 2017


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