The Cape Navigator

Seaside Community Newspaper

Cape Town

Weather-Related Hazards Pose R20 Billion Risk to Cape Town’s Transport Infrastructure, Reveals UCT Study

Michael Hawthorne

Severe weather events, including coastal flooding and fires, pose a significant threat to the City of Cape Town’s (CoCT) transport infrastructure, with an estimated value of R20 billion, according to a recent analysis by researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The study, published in the Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, conducted by Dr Tanya Lane-Visser and Professor Marianne Vanderschuren of the UCT Centre of Transport Studies, quantified the volume of infrastructure at risk and assessed the economic implications.

The analysis highlighted the direct and indirect vulnerabilities of transportation to weather and climate impacts, encompassing physical infrastructure, human health, behaviour, and decision-making. The key climate change challenges identified for the city include decreased annual average rainfall, increased temperatures, higher wind strength, intensified storms, and rising sea levels.

A geographic information system (GIS) was employed to calculate the quantum of transport infrastructure at risk, focusing on passenger transport within the city limits. The results indicated that 24% of all roads, 52.6% of moderately sized taxi ranks, and significant portions of MyCiti and Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) stops and stations are in high-risk zones.

In addition to the overall analysis, three specific climate-related hazards – coastal flooding, flooding of low-lying areas, and fire vulnerability – were individually modelled. The findings revealed that adverse weather conditions could disrupt almost a third of taxi routes, impact 15% of the MyCiti network, and pose a threat to suburbs served by GABS.

The potential socio-economic impacts of climate-related hazards are staggering, with 79.6% of Capetonians residing in high-risk areas. Employment levels are highly correlated, with adverse weather potentially impacting 50% to 80% of the city’s labour force. Furthermore, 15.2% of schools and 28.8% of healthcare facilities are in high-exposure areas, highlighting potential disruptions to education and healthcare services.

Estimates suggest that road infrastructure damage alone in high-exposure areas could range from R4.6 billion to R12.1 billion. Professor Vanderschuren, South Africa’s leading transport expert, emphasized coastal flooding as the greatest hazard for the MyCiti bus rapid transit, putting R3.26 billion worth of infrastructure at risk.

To address these challenges, the researchers propose prudent governance tasks, including proofing and maintaining infrastructure, investing in fire safety protocols, and developing disaster response plans. Spatial planning cognizant of weather-related hazards is crucial to reducing climate-related risks to transport infrastructure. The study’s outputs can aid the CoCT in identifying and developing custom mitigation plans for critical infrastructure elements.

As Cape Town faces the growing threat of climate change, the findings underscore the importance of proactive measures and strategic planning to safeguard the city’s vital transport infrastructure and ensure the well-being of its residents.



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