In pursuit of just sustainability
The GCRO’s 12th Research Report, In pursuit of just sustainability, presents empirical case study research from a range of sectors, perspectives and approaches to advance just sustainability theory and inform practice. The report sets out to examine the interactions between social justice and environmental sustainability using the Gauteng City-Region as the case study context. This collection of case studies furthers the discourse on just sustainability and demonstrates that while a crucial objective, building environmentally sustainable and socially just societies is neither simple nor straightforward.
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Linked to project(s):Just sustainability transitions
Towards applying a green infrastructure approach in the GCR
In recent weeks, the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) has experienced heatwaves, raising renewed concerns over water security, as well as heavy and persistent rains, leading to severe flooding in some areas. In this context of heightened climate variability, thinking about ways to redesign our urban areas with more sustainable infrastructure solutions is becoming more and more important. Green infrastructure (GI) is emerging as an alternative approach to traditional (‘grey’) infrastructure in urban planning and development. Its emergence can be understood in terms of the growing demand for infrastructure and services, increased concerns over natural resource constraints and climate change, and the negative impacts associated with traditional approaches to designing and building cities. It has been proposed that GI can provide the same services as traditional infrastructure at a similar capital cost, while also providing a range of additional benefits.
However, despite greater policy interest in green infrastructure in recent years, traditional infrastructure solutions to urban problems continue to dominate. This is partly due to the lack of a systematic evidence base to support GI implementation. There have been calls from decision-makers for more concrete examples of the benefits of successful urban GI applications, as well as for practical guidelines on their implementation.
Towards applying a green infrastructure approach in the Gauteng City-Region is the GCRO’s eleventh Research Report. This report builds on the findings of two previous green infrastructure reports, as well as a CityLab process run with academics and government officials between 2014 and 2016. These outputs and the CityLab discussions highlighted as critical the need to for a deeper evidence base in building support for, and enhancing investment in, the GI approach.
Unlike the earlier studies which were more theoretically grounded and policy oriented, this report comprises a number of technical investigations that more practically reflect on how a GI approach could be incorporated into urban planning in the GCR, and in other similar urban contexts.
The report consists of six chapters:
Chapter 1: Introduction and overview, by Christina Culwick, provides an overview and rationale for the report, situating it within the context of GCRO’s long standing Green Assets and Infrastructure Project.
Chapter 2: Mapping the inequity of green assets in Gauteng, by Samkelisiwe Khanyile, re-engages with the mapping of GI in the Gauteng City-Region that was a core feature of the first GCRO green infrastructure report in 2013. The mapping explores inequities in green assets and infrastructure through three different lenses, namely: (i) the distribution of green assets across the region; (ii) the proximity and accessibility of parks in Johannesburg; and (iii) the apparent degradation of Gauteng’s wetlands over time.
Chapter 3: Sustainable urban drainage systems for informal settlements, by Anne Fitchett, Lerato Monama and Jennifer van den Bussche, investigates the potential for sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) in addressing inadequate stormwater infrastructure in informal settlements. The chapter graphically illustrates a range of practical, low-cost GI solutions that could be applied in an informal settlement context.
Chapter 4: Green infrastructure stormwater solutions for Diepsloot, Johannesburg, by Anne Fitchett, Lerato Monama and Jennifer van den Bussche, focuses on these researchers’ experience in working with community organisations to apply a range of GI solutions in Diepsloot, an informal settlement in Johannesburg. The analysis draws out important learnings both in terms of the process of, and results from, implementing this local GI experiment.
Chapter 5: Atlas Spruit flood relief scheme: costs and benefits, by Stuart Dunsmore, Raishan Naidu and Marco Vieira, reflects on the results of the Atlas Spruit flood relief scheme, which saw the design of an artificial wetland to address stormwater challenges in a typical suburban setting in Ekurhuleni. The analysis weighs the costs and benefits of the GI approach actually taken, relative to the more conventional ‘grey infrastructure’ engineering solution that would have called for the construction of concrete drainage channels.
Chapter 6: Developing a ‘green asset registry’ to guide green infrastructure planning, by Gillian Sykes, investigates how GI could potentially be incorporated into traditional local government asset registries as an important way to see the value of GI recognised by municipal engineers and financial managers.
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Linked to project(s):Green assets and infrastructure
Social cohesion in Gauteng
Increasing attacks on foreigners, including in April 2015, along with a succession of widely publicised incidents of racism, have triggered a new round of soul-searching in South Africa. Why, after the comprehensive defeat of apartheid and its ideology, does prejudice seem so intractable? What kinds of interventions could help reduce these troubling events? How can society be made more ‘cohesive’?
Suggestions about what to do in the face of these challenges are sometimes speculative and wishful. They consist of appeals to the better nature of ordinary people, or an assumption that the feel good moments of the democratic transition can be re-enacted to bind everyone together. Calls for social cohesion and tolerance seem often to dodge the complex vicious cycles that lead to the instances of intolerance that erupt in the media or in communities.
This Research Report centres on better understanding the current dynamics of social cohesion in Gauteng. It tackles five guiding questions, each of which corresponds to a chapter:
- How has social cohesion become a goal in post-apartheid South Africa, and what are the key limitations resulting from this understanding of social progress?
- In a global context, how is social cohesion defined and what are the main contestations about this ideal of social change?
- How do the respondents in the GCRO's Quality of Life IV (2015/16) survey respond to questions on levels of trust, claims to belonging by different race groups, and the place of migrants and gays and lesbians in Gauteng?
- How have past and present initiatives to improve social cohesion conceived of the problem they are attempting to address, and what is their scale of intervention?
- What are the various methodologies that have been used in past and present initiatives to improve social cohesion?
A key premise of this research was that our society has an enormous accumulation of experience in trying to tackle anti-social interactions and to address social injustices that are, in various ways, shaped by race, class, nationality, gender, sexuality and other identities. The last two chapters of this report are based on a review of more than 60 social cohesion initiatives. They analyse the wide variety of actors involved in such work, the different ways in which they conceive of their objectives, and the different scales at which they operate. These actors pursue dozens of different methodologies including sports and dialogue, arts, psychology, urban design, and public campaigns. This dispersed capacity through society is important because it represents experience-based responses to the ways in which anti-social behaviour and social injustice are reproduced. In attempting to determine a programme of action, we argue that we should learn from and extend existing and past attempts to tackle these difficulties.
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Linked to project(s):Social cohesion policy support (2019)
Poverty and inequality in the Gauteng City-Region
Poverty and inequality are legacies of apartheid that are proving intractable to deal with, in spite of a high level of policy concern with the two challenges, and many attempts by the post-apartheid government to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. Why do poverty and inequality continue to be major developmental challenges in South Africa? To what extent have government efforts since 1994 contributed towards reducing poverty and inequality? With a view to knowing what provincial and local government could do to better address the issues, how do we understand the local spatial variation in those factors that constitute poverty and inequality? This major Research Report attempts to answer these questions with a focus on Gauteng, highlighting patterns, drivers and changes over time. The Report consists of three parts.
Part 1 gives an analysis of poverty and inequality from an income and expenditure perspective. The paper has two main objectives. First, it aims to provide an overview of changes in poverty and income inequality in Gauteng for the 15-year period between 1995 and 2010 as well as a critical analysis of the relationship between economic growth, poverty and inequality over this period. Second, it seeks to assess the impact of government provided social grants on income inequality and poverty in the province. The analysis utilises data on income and expenditure from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) Income and Expenditure Surveys for 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. In order to ensure comparability between the respective surveys, adjusted cross-entropy weights were applied.
Part 2 focuses on inequalities in the labour market over the period 1995-2012 using data from Stats SA's Labour Force Survey and the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Important variables considered include race, gender and education. Particular attention is given to how these characteristics result in segmentation and discrimination in the labour market, ultimately generating income inequalities.
Part 3 uses the GCRO's Quality of Life Survey (QoL) data for 2011 and 2013 to generate a Multidimensional Poverty Index for Gauteng (GMPI). The index was developed along the same lines as the South African Multidimensional Poverty Index (SAMPI) by Stats SA and follows the Alkire-Foster method of multidimensional poverty analysis. Since 2013 QoL data can be disaggregated down to ward level, the authors were able to map results by ward and thereby show spatial variations in multidimensional poverty across the province. Small area analyses such as this provide invaluable insights that should help provincial and local government to target areas with the most need
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Linked to project(s):Understanding poverty and inequality in the GCR (2018)
Taking Streets Seriously
In many parts of Gauteng, streets are congested with cars, trucks, minibus taxis, pedestrians, and informal traders. In other parts, streets are quiet, underutilised and frequently underserviced. The surface quality of the city-region’s streets varies widely – from the engineering marvel of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project to those (relatively few) remaining gravel or dirt roads. Besides these contrasts, there are many other degrees of quality by which Gauteng’s streets vary.
In some parts of Gauteng, streets have become privatised or heavily securitised. The phenomenon of ‘gated’ communities either manifests as enclosed streets within private estates or as closed-off existing public-road networks in older suburban areas. Some streets are patrolled by security guards, lined with high walls and electric fences, and surveyed by CCTV cameras.
In busy areas, informal traders sell their wares on the pavement or at traffic lights, adding to the congestion on narrow sidewalks. These activities are subject to varying levels of control and police harassment, where by-laws dictating the use of roads and pavements are haphazardly enforced, with trading goods or café tables randomly confiscated across the city. And, like many other features of the urban environment, the quality of Gauteng’s streets is highly uneven.
This Research Report, ‘Taking Streets Seriously’, interrogates how what is considered good urban design and liveability of streets may shift in different contexts. Through a series of case studies it attempts to understand the various logics at play in Gauteng’s streets – not only the logics of their designers, builders or managers, but also of those who inhabit, use, or otherwise interact with them.
The studies unearthed a complex interplay of actors on Gauteng streets, with street users, property owners and the state each operating according to their own, diverse agendas, contingent on the particular street in question. The result is streets that are chaotic, contested, and changing over time.
It is fair to say that, with only a few exceptions, Gauteng’s streets were and continue to be designed with hostility or a studied disregard towards anyone not behind a steering wheel. Yet despite the dominance of cars, pedestrian activities do proliferate. While indubitably car-centric, they are nonetheless sites of diverse and vibrant 'non-motorised' life. This vibrancy is no thanks to those who constructed and now control our streets. Non-car users have only made their mark by contesting the territory of the street using a variety of tactics.
With this Research Report, we hope to prompt a re-imagination of our streets, not least as streets rather than roads, but also as public spaces. Streets comprise by far the majority of public space in contemporary Gauteng, where other forms, such as plazas and parks, are woefully inadequate. Streets taken seriously – not by users, who have little choice, but by their designers, planners, and managers – have enormous potential to enable and encourage public life in Gauteng’s cities. Conversely, streets that are poorly made or neglected outright can constrain both the society and economy of a city.
Ultimately, we hope to correct an official urban discourse that overlooks the many uses to which streets are and could be put. In a time of enormous excitement and corresponding investment in our cities, we would like to see some of both these factors directed towards the (re)development of our streets.
The report comprises eight chapters and four reflections:
- Chapter 1. Streets as public spaces, by Jesse Harber and Alexandra Parker
- Reflection A. Streets as spaces for connection and memory, by Rehana Moosajee
- Chapter 2. The (in)Complete Streets of Emfuleni, by Kate Joseph
- Chapter 3. A research-based case study of Solomon Mahlangu Road, by Siegwalt U Küsel
- Reflection B. Princess Place, by Guy Trangoš
- Chapter 4. The conception and contestation of public space in Johannesburg suburbia, by Alexandra Parker
- Chapter 5. Context and utility cycling: The case of Springs in comparison to Johannesburg, by Njogu Morgan
- Reflection C. Why optimism is still an option: The battle for road space equity, by Gail Jennings and Guy Davies
- Chapter 6. Exploring high streets in suburban Johannesburg, by Tatum Kok
- Chapter 7. Contestations of street trading on De Villiers Street, by Mamokete Matjomane
- Reflection D. Open Streets Cape Town, by Rory Williams
- Chapter 8. Quiet encroachments on Braamfontein: A photo-essay, by Jesse Harber
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