Landscaping in post Day Zero Cape Town

BY  Kay Montgomery From SALI  South African Landscapers Institute

Planting with species that thrive on less than 500mm of winter rainfall a year is the new reality for landscaping in Cape Town.   

The politicians may have done away with the Day Zero concept, but the realities of the water situation in the Western Cape remains dire.

Water restrictions and the price of potable water have encouraged a new landscaping reality. The foundation of this reality is based on landscaping with plants that thrive with less than 500mm of winter rainfall. And in our current era of climate change, coping with dramatically wet years – followed by dramatically dry years.

Highs and lows

With an average rainfall of 464mm per annum, South Africa remains a water scarce country. In years gone by, Cape Town’s average rainfall was 820mm per annum. In 2013 and 2014, Cape Town’s annual rainfall exceeded this average with two dramatically wet years.

The winds of change arrived in 2015.  Over the past three years, the rainfall received in Cape Town has swung way below the average:  549mm in 2015, 634mm in 2016 and 499mm in 2017 – the driest year since observations began in 1921.

Resilient landscaping

Against this backdrop, landscapers are practising the art of resilient landscaping. “We need green spaces in our cities”, says Norah de Wet, Chairperson of the South African Landscapers’ Institute (SALI). “Professional landscapers are at the forefront of securing the intrinsic value of properties across the Western Cape by refitting, rehabilitating, restoring and installing resilient landscapes”.

Planting for resilience

“Choosing plants that can thrive in a winter rainfall area with less that 500mm a year of rainfall is key to the concept of resilient landscaping in the Western Cape”, says Deon van Eeden from Vula Environmental Services.  “Only with a sound knowledge of fynbos flora, can one succeed in designing water wise, ecologically sound, resilient landscapes for the winter rainfall area”, he adds.

 

What happened here ? Cape Town’s failed water supply?

Awaiting Day Zero: Cape Town Faces an Uncertain Water Future

ap_capetownspringwater_jan-2018_web3

After Cape Town restricted water use in February to 13 gallons per day per person, city residents now wait in increasingly long lines to collect water from the city’s natural springs.  AP PHOTO/BRAM JANSSEN 

South Africa’s second-largest city has pushed back the day when its taps are expected to run dry. But with its population growing and the climate warming, Cape Town, like many cities in semi-arid regions, must take decisive measures to meet its future water needs.

Backed by the iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa’s second-largest metropolis, seduces increasing numbers of international travelers. Its charismatic neighborhoods, bright beaches, and breathtaking natural landscapes garner shelves-full of tourism awards and terabytes of glowing Instagram posts.

Recently, Cape Town also has become infamous as the home of “Day Zero,” the day when most of the city’s taps are predicted to run dry. With its major, rain-fed supply dams dangerously low after three years of drought, most of the city’s 4 million-plus residents — some rich, many desperately poor — have been facing the prospect of lining up at emergency water distribution points to collect a daily ration of just 6.6 gallons per person sometime before June or July. That’s when winter rains normally begin filling the reservoirs of this Southern Hemisphere city.

Now, largely thanks to radical conservation efforts — in January, the average Cape Town resident’s daily water quota was just one-third the amount used by the typical Californian at the height of that state’s 2016 drought — the city has reduced water consumption by 57 percent. Day Zero has been pushed back to July 9. And if the citizens of Cape Town (myself among them) continue to save as we have been, we should make it to the winter rainy season without having to line up for water.

So, disaster averted? Nothing to see here anymore? Far from it. The city’s efforts on the supply side of the water equation have been far less successful than its work on consumption. Even if the drought comes to an end in 2018 — and few experts are willing to predict that — the effects of this water crisis will be felt for years, possibly decades.

How did Cape Town, one of the best-managed and wealthiest cities in Africa, find itself on the brink of running dry?

Cape Town’s predicament provides a global warning about the difficulty of ensuring water resilience in a warming world, even if, as with Cape Town, climate change is firmly on the agenda of city managers. Most climate models predict that the Cape Town region will become not only warmer, but drier, which bodes ill for a metropolitan area whose population has roughly doubled to 4 million in the past three decades and continues to grow at 1 to 2 percent annually.

And Cape Town’s rushed efforts to boost water supply by tapping into aquifers, including some in national parks and provincial nature reserves, are damaging valuable ecosystems and putting rare species at risk of extinction. The agricultural sector, including the Cape region’s world-renowned wine industry, has been forced to sharply cut back on irrigation, which is reducing production and leaving tens of thousands of people out of work.

So how did Cape Town, one of the best-managed and wealthiest cities in Africa, find itself on the brink of running dry? The city has, after all, won awards for its work on climate change. South Africa has some of the world’s most detailed, progressive water laws and deep expertise in water science and management, climate science, and meteorology. The city has mapped projected sea level rise and convened countless climate change adaptation planning sessions. Last year, Cape Town’s mayor said, “We cannot plan anything without factoring in the impact of climate change.”

People wait to collect water from a natural spring in the Cape Town suburb of St. James in January 2018.

People wait to collect water from a natural spring in the Cape Town suburb of St. James in January 2018. RODGER BOSCH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A simple (and perhaps simplistic) answer to the cause of the current crisis is that rainfall was well below average for three years in a row, that no one could have or did predict that, and thus serious action to reduce water consumption — which should have begun in 2016 — came too late.  The crisis has exposed significant weaknesses in scientists’ ability to forecast weather on a seasonal scale, which is when it matters to city managers and farmers, and predict rainfall on an annual or decadal scale, which is when it matters to developers of large-scale infrastructure, such as raising dam heights and building desalination plants.

The southwestern part of South Africa has a Mediterranean climate much like the central coast of California, with hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters (June through August.) The winter rains fill the six large dams around the city that form the core of the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS), which services the vast majority of the city’s residential and industrial water users, as well as farming areas and smaller towns nearby.

The winter rains are generally very reliable. Using historical rainfall data, Piotr Wolski of the Climate Systems Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town has determined that a multi-year drought as severe as the current one would only be expected once every few hundred years, perhaps less than once in a millennium. The ongoing drought in the catchments of the WCWSS dams, he writes, “is indeed very, very rare, and thus very, very severe.” The historical rainfall record indicates that, having had two poor rainfall years in a row (2015 and 2016), the chances of a third bad year – especially one as bad as 2017 – were extremely remote.

In addition to historical data pointing to the extremely low likelihood of 2017’s winter being dry, the South African Weather Service modeled a three-month seasonal forecast for the winter of 2017 that predicted higher than average rainfall.Notwithstanding that seasonal rainfall forecasts for the Cape region are notoriously unreliable, it appears that officials were left feeling less urgency to impose hugely unpopular water restrictions or push forward with expensive water infrastructure projects early in the year.

Experts have long warned that Cape Town would find itself in a water crisis caused by converging drought, population growth, and the failure to secure new water resources. But because of uncertainties in water consumption rates and in weather and climate prediction, it’s been hard to fix a date.

The city’s water consumption has fallen from 317 million gallons per day in early 2015 to about 137 million gallons per day.

 Read More

Continue reading

The Myths of Alien Species: An Alternate Perspective on “Wild”

Ditya Gopal reviews a new book on of The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation, by Fred Pearce from The Nature of Cities  that will add grits to the dispute between conservationists, landscape architects and the public on what constitutes  an acceptable stance to non-native species and invasive aliens and how we view wilderness and wildness along with the age old debate on how nature is constructed.

“The New Wild is an intriguing book that looks at non-native species and nature in new light, challenging popular notions of ‘nativism,’ ‘wild’ and nature’s ‘fragility.’ Although the author, Fred Pearce, has taken on a controversial topic, his sources show that he is not alone as an increasing number of ecologists and scientists are questioning the “good natives, bad aliens,” narrative. As a seasoned journalist with years of experience reporting environmental and development issues, Pearce strengthens his arguments with plenty of examples—most of which he has personally observed. The book critically reviews the vilification of non-native species, common misconceptions in ecosystem restoration, and pitfalls in conventional conservation”

This topic is of particular relevance here in Cape Town which is situated right in the middle one of the worlds ecological hotspots and with its unique vegetation is the site of frequent conflicts between the ruthless eradication  of all alien plant species including what many see as valuable urban forests. The position that many of us have is that it is preferable to have the large exotic trees and shrubs in the urban environment for their social, aesthetic and habitat benefits for urban birds and other wildlife than to revert to the natural vegetation of the place (mostly sand veld fynbos or renosterveld, that cannot be recreated in a viable dimension within the fragmented urban fabric, nor do these vegetation types support large trees and human scale environments, most of the large deciduous northern hemisphere tree species are  benign and not able to survive as C and are classified as such by the CARA legislation.

“As a unique and extreme form of novel ecosystems, Pearce urges conservationists to see the great potential in urban badlands/brownfields that nurture numerous rare species. The success of brownfields suggests that nature just needs places that are left alone, with little human intervention. Brownfields might not fit the conventional definition of nature, but they have a huge potential for conservation. Pearce quotes the case of the Chernobyl nuclear station as one of the most remarkable brownfields where nature is making a huge comeback, including the return of large mammals, rodents, birds, and so on. Although highly radioactive, Chernobyl is an extreme example of “nature’s salvation and resilience.” He adds, “nature doesn’t care about conservationists’ artificial divide between urban and rural or native and alien species” or pristine and badlands. This is a powerful statement that we, as conservationists, ecologists, and nature enthusiasts, need to bear in mind. Pearce suggests that conservationists should move on from conventional conservation and its two main aims—“saving threatened species” and restoring nature to its pristine state; and adapt to current environmental realities that include changes due to climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and intensive agriculture. Aliens seem to be “rapidly changing from being part of the problem to part of the solution.” And they are the ‘new wild.’

With the onset of climate change, which is giving rise to an increasing number of climate refugees, adopting a zero tolerance approach towards migrants seems problematic. Previous ice ages and extreme climatic events are testament to massive migrations of species and evolutionary changes. As Prof. Chris Thomas of the University of York is quoted, “A narrow preservationist agenda will reduce rather than increase the capacity of nature to respond to the environmental changes that we are inflicting on the world.”

In the last paragraphs, Pearce expresses that there is no harm in intervening to protect certain aspects of nature that we cherish, nor is there harm in defending against “pests, diseases and inconvenient invaders.” But, “we are serving our own desires and not nature’s needs.” Nature might organize differently than we would like it to. “Open up to evolutionary changes. Let go and let nature take its course.” “…Nature never goes back, it always moves on. Alien invasions will not always be convenient for us, but nature will re-wild in its own way. That is the new wild.”

“The New Wild is persuasive, with well-supported arguments that make for a good read. The simple language and case studies make it easy for even a non-ecologist to follow. This book should be a must-read at the university level for future scientists, researchers, and conservationists, to develop an open mind towards non-native species.

As an ecologist who works in cultural landscapes, this book is refreshing. ‘Wild,’ to me, means spontaneous and not domesticated or cultivated. In many big European cities that I have visited, the median strip along roadways, the small patches of green at road junctions and other nooks and crannies in the city are beautifully decorated with colourful flowers—almost nearing perfection. It was only when I moved to Berlin that I noticed something different. It is refreshing to see dandelions and daffodils appear and vanish on their own. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to bring back the urban wild and it seems to be popular. Yes, it differs drastically from my notions of ‘wild’ as a child who grew up reading encyclopedias and watching National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel. But, there is something magical about seeing what nature has to offer. Many of the spontaneously growing plants, often considered weeds elsewhere, add character to the city. Some are natives, some aliens. It doesn’t matter. To me, these spontaneous species are the new wild.”

Divya Gopal
Berlin

Read More

Local pop-up shop for the homeless goes global

How to get the “haves” and “have-nots” together to share from Biz-community.com

 

From China to Cape Town, Brussels to Bangladesh, Florida to France, Mexico to Melbourne, the concept of The Street Store – the world’s first pop-up clothing store for the homeless – has gone viral both online and in the real world as it’s captured the imagination of people worldwide.
To date more than 263 people from around the globe have signed up to host the street store in their community, and the open source material has so far been translated into nine languages.
A Street Store which was set up for the homeless in Spain

As the Street Store concept rolls out globally, picking up momentum, kudos has not gone unnoticed at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival. The agency behind the concept – M&C Saatchi Abel – was awarded a prestigious Gold Lion in the design category, a bronze in the media category, with six other shortlists, including the Grand Prix for Good Award.

Conceptualised and piloted in the Mother City

The idea was conceptualised and piloted in Cape Town by Kayli Levitan and Maximilian Pazak from M&C Saatchi Abel. The young copywriter and art director team brainstormed for months to find a way to bring the giver and the receiver together on the streets they share on behalf of The Haven Night Shelter.
The Street Store was created for The Haven Night Shelter, Cape Town’s largest network of centres for the homeless. Their vision is that no-one should have to sleep on the streets if the appropriate supportive structures are put into place by communities, government and organisations. Their mission is ‘to get the homeless home’ by empowering them to return to a sustainable life. Without presentable clothing there is little chance of them getting employment and The Haven relies heavily on donations. As with many charities, the supply and need don’t often match, which is where the creative team’s challenge came in.

Together, agency and client identified that the shelter really needed a powerful series of call to action projects that simplifies donation, while offering the receiver a dignified experience. “More importantly, we wanted both sides of society to own the process and see it through. This meant merging two totally disparate worlds in a positive and empowering way,” says Levitan.

Read More

Cityscapes #3 – The Smart City?

Cityscapes 3

Date: March 27, 2013 Time: 18:00pm-19:00pm
Venue: The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town

The latest instalment of Cityscapes, the hybrid current affairs and culture magazine devoted to “re-thinking urban things”, will be launched in Cape Town on 27 March 2013. Featuring interviews with Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola and novelist Imraan Coovadia, the bumper 140-page third issues has as its thematic focus the “smart city”.

This fuzzily defined term speaks to the increasing use of networked information and communications technologies in ordering of large-scale urban phenomenon. The magazine visits Rio de Janeiro to find out what this means practically. “Technology gives you a faster response,” explains Dario Bizzo Marques, a technology systems coordinator at Rio’s $14-million integrated city management centre, home to Latin America’s largest surveillance screen.

“We increasingly share the space and time of cities with semi-autonomous agents of a nonhuman, indeed non-biological, nature, from drones to algorithms,” offers Adam Greenfield in his provocative 100-point manifesto appearing in Cityscapes and addressing the pervasive use of tech-savvy urban management solutions. Noted urban theorist Ash Amin, in a cornerstone 5000-word interview with Matthew Gandy, is also wary of the ideological implications of reducing city management to the top-down marshalling of abstract data.

“The positivist legacy has been rekindled in the ‘big data’ approach to the city,” offers Amin. “Its conceit is to think that the availability of sophisticated mathematical models able to work large data in nuanced ways, allows the city to be visualised and understood in all its complexities and evolving changes.”

Also included in the latest issue of Cityscapes: an intimate account of living in the Nairobi slum of Kibera; a description of Sao Paulo’s oppositional graffiti cultures; a fond appraisal of the career of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray; a look at Kigali’s ambitious master plan; a profile of artist Theaster Gates; a speculation on the city without the automobile; and a photo essay describing life in Kowloon, the famous Hong Kong tenement slum demolished in the early 1990s.

About Cityscapes: Launched in 2011 and jointly edited by Sean O’Toole and Tau Tavengwa, in collaboration with Professor Edgar Pieterse, Cityscapes offers a disparate blend of in-depth interviews, enquiring journalism, polemical editorialising and illustration rich content to document and theorise urban experience in the global south

Two Views of Woodstock:Cape Town – “Upscaling” vs “Gentrification”

Here are two opposed views of the regeneration of an old area of Cape Town, Woodstock,   it seems inevitable that any upgrading or regeneration effort  runs the risk  being labeled ‘gentrification’ with its negative connotations of poor locals being forced out by profit hungry developers. It seems ironic that in many of these cases the developers are out-of-work young professionals who seeing the opportunity, make the best of their creativity, contacts and by hard work get the thing going in the face of enormous odds. Only once they have made the area acceptably safe and more economically viable, does the area become the target for  developers to enter the market and the price of rents, land etc become a problem as the “poor”  landowning residents decide to cash in and sell their properties.

The   first post by Ravi Naidoo is the positive and development oriented “neo-liberal” view of things, from Dezeen and Mini World Tour

“South Africa has always had an Upscaling Culture”

In the second part of our tour around Cape Town, Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo shows us the former industrial suburb of Woodstock, which the city’s design community has recently made its home, and explains the importance of upcycling in South African design."South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"“If you have 36 hours in Cape Town and time is at a premium, you have to head down to Woodstock,” says Naidoo. It is an area of Cape Town three kilometres from the city centre that has undergone an “extreme makeover” in recent years and is now home to an array of arts, craft, fashion and design studios and shops, as well as cafés and restaurants.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

Naidoo takes us to The Old Biscuit Mill, a 19th-century biscuit factory in the heart of Woodstock, which was redeveloped in 2005 by Kristof Basson Architects, and where many of the designers that present their work at theDesign Indaba Expo are now based. It also hosts a weekly food market that draws crowds from across the city every Saturday.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

The Old Biscuit Mill recently underwent its second phase of redevelopment, converting the old  flour silo into six storeys of mixed-use space, which now houses the Cape Town Creative Academy as well as a new penthouse restaurant called The Pot Luck Club by leading South African chef Luke Dale-Roberts.

Read More

Laura Wenz’s post,  while  more “gentrification” orientated, examines some of the problems and attempts to mitigate the negative effects from Daily Maverick

Woodstock’s urban renewal: Much more at stake than the loss of parking

In South Africa, the phenomenon of gentrification is commonly associated with the resurrection of downtown Johannesburg and the rebirth of Woodstock in Cape Town. Both areas share a common denominator for gentrification: a growing middle class with disposable incomes and a taste for all things designer. And both fail to support government’s claim that it is creating inclusive cities for all, writes LAURA A WENZ.

“When I first moved to New York, it was dingy, disgusting, dirty, ugly, flea-ridden, stinky and altogether terrifying – but then sadly the whole city started to go uphill,” laments Ted Mosby, the naïve and inveterately romantic protagonist of the popular American TV-comedy series  How I met your Mother. His sentimental statement captures the glum irony of urban regeneration: Neighbourhoods with the right mix of historical flair, cosmopolitan ambience and urban decay perpetually attract students, young professionals and artists in search of cheap rent and inspiration.

Armed with the best intentions and an undaunted can-do attitude, these pioneers set out to make their newly adopted working-class neighbourhood an even better one, praising its “gritty charm” and “original character” while they open coffee shops and organic eateries. Only too late do they realise that property developers have been watching them closely and once the word on the potential value of the once hidden gem is out, land prices shoot through the roof, artists exit through the gift shop and long-time residents end up on their stoep, door locked firmly behind them.

woodstock bromwell door

Photo: Bromwell Boutique Mall, with close-up of doorman.

Rising property values are often too readily assumed to benefit local home-owners, while in fact they have put severe strain on old-established residents, who have had to cope with rising municipal rates due to property re-evaluation. According to the Anti-Eviction Campaign, some families have not been able to afford the escalating rates, leading to their eviction and removal to‘Blikkiesdorp’.  This infamous Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) – a not-so-glamorous World Cup legacy – has been repeatedly slammed by human rights groups for its inhumane living conditions.

Though the market effects of higher land value are at first glance supporting the city council’s densification strategy as space needs to be used more efficiently, it simultaneously prohibits the development of affordable housing and rental units. This however is an essential prerequisite for making the inner city more accessible to people in the low-income bracket and cracking open the encrusted patterns of urban inequality.

Read More

Ravi Naidoo on Design Indaba Cape Town & African Renewal

From dezeen

Our first Dezeen and MINI World Tour despatch, Ravi Naidoo takes us on a tour of his home city and explains why he founded the Design Indaba conference that is taking place in Cape Town this week.

Founded 18 years ago, Design Indaba has grown to be the world’s biggest design conference, drawing speakers from around the world and spawning an Expo showcasing South African creativity, a music festival and a film festival.

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

During the trip, in which we explore Table Mountain, Signal Hill and downtown Cape Town, Naidoo explains that he started Design Indaba in 1994 as an attempt to shift the economic discussion in post-Apartheid South Africa away from mining and tourism and instead promote the economic value of “ideas and intellectual capital”.

“We wanted to create a platform that would help to inspire [design in South Africa]”, he says. “This was an opportunity for us to bring the global creative community to South Africa to share their experiences.”

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

“Some people laughed at us at the time” he recollects. “I remember talking to a very senior politician who said: ‘our country has got vexing problems; it’s about water, it’s about housing, it’s about sanitation.’ But those are design problems.”

Buoyed by an improving economy, Naidoo believes that the design industries in Africa today are starting to flourish. “By the year 2015, of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, seven will be African,” he says. “Of course, this has a concomitant effect on the creative industries. The story is really one of renewal, regeneration and growth. And there aren’t too many places in the world that are growing right now.”

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

This movie features a MINI Cooper S Countryman.

The music featured is by a young South African DJ and producer calledKimon, who performed on Thursday as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit. You can listen to the full track on Dezeen music Project.

Abalimi Bezekhaya – Cape Town’s Green Revolution

From Topos recognition for the work of our local urban farmers

To mark the 20th anniversary of Topos, the editors have assigned two Special Recognitions to two very different kinds of initiatives. Together they both mark the broad field in which we operate. One is recognition of the Norwegian Tourist Routes (to be explained in more detail via our blog soon). The other recognition goes to Abalimi Bezekhaya – a successful self-help project initiated by the residents of the Cape Flat Townships in Cape Town.

We are Abalimi. We are the Farmers. from Abalimi Bezekhaya on Vimeo.

Known as the “Eastern Cape on Cape Town’s doorstep”, the Cape Flats townships (around Cape Town) are populated largely by economic refugees from the previous apartheid homelands of the Ciskei and Transkei. New arrivals into Cape Town are officially estimated to be 1200 per month and unemployment figures are in the region of 30-40%. Abalimi Bezekhaya (Farmers of Home) alleviates poverty and creates self-employment through gardening and micro-farming in the sandy soil of the Cape Flats.

Voluntary association Abalimi was founded in 1983. It is an urban agriculture and environmental action association, working to improve sustainable food production and environmental greening amongst the poor in Cape Town. In particular the project targets women who often represent whole families. “Abalimi” means ‘the farmers’ in isi-Xhosa, the predominant language of their target community. Abalimi supports individual households and groups to implement their own gardening and micro-farming projects. This includes between approx. 2500 home based vegetable gardens and 70-100 community group projects (school gardens, community allotment gardens, communal gardens) per annum. It runs two non-profit nursery projects in Nyanga and Khayelitsha. Called People’s Garden Centres, they supply free advice, information and subsidised gardening inputs such as trees, groundcovers, soil improvers (e.g. manure), seed, seedlings, basic tools, windbreaks and safe pest control remedies.

Read More

Urban Public Space – An Open Invitation to Contribute

This is an  invite  to readers to contribute to this blog,   any post that has to do with the urban public domain, especially if it can be situated in the actual physical pubic space of the city, any city is welcome.

I have been slack this month but have been thinking how to take the blog from re- posting generalized articles on the urban  to  original posts that deal with  issues of how politics, governance and business, especially retail property development,  impact on public space within the urban environment and  how these are shaped by the different “cultural” groups that make up these ‘publics’.

In the Southern Theory frameworks there is  interest in how the poor are disenfranchised by  manipulations of the public sphere to advantage those with power or money.

The media often play a key role in how these disenfranchised and marginalized people are viewed and treated by the authorities and power groups.

An example in Cape Town is how the City Improvement Districts e.g. Central City Improvement District  (CCID),  which is a partnership between the City of Cape Town and local business interests, in terms of which they are able to provide their own private police force,  which in the interests of public safety and order, clear the streets of ” undesirable elements” or  street people like unauthorized pavement traders, ‘car guards” ,traffic-light hawkers, beggars and homeless street kids, and as a consequence, those who have the least ability to make a living in “normal respectable ways” are denied access to the public spaces that are constitutionally their right where they might eke out a living,

This post  Ode to the Central City Improvement District from The Daddy Long Legs provides  one view.

Rita Abrahamsen wrote about it in her book, Security Beyond the State:

Communities, and particularly today’s urban communities, are often heterogeneous, with limited consensus…

For ‘undesirable elements’, such as street children and vagrants, the CCID has meant increased harassment and more frequent arrest…Securicor officers frequently transport street children to so-called safe houses, in order to get them off the streets, in full knowledge that they will be back the next day…

A combination of pubic by-laws and private enforcement serves to prevent the poor and the homeless from utilizing the city’s public spaces, where they frequently make their livings through various forms of informal trading…The articulation of private-public and global-local that has emerged in Cape Town thus facilitates specific forms of security provision that strengthen aspects of the public and the state, at the same time as it increases power differentials, disempowers already marginalized individuals or groups and renders the security provided by both public and private agents a distinctly variable

The media play a key role in the demonization and criminalisation of these groups – some of them are far from innocent of crimes such as pilfering, pick pocketing, drunkenness and drug peddling etc, which is the justification used to exclude all of them, not just those proven guilty. It is no coincidence that this is in the interests of business owners and property developers as well.

There are certainly benifits for the city and is population  in making the public space safer and the CCID has contributed to these efforts,  see for example this article from the Cape Town Partnerships website: Strategic partnership enhances safety of CBD’s Company’s Garden , but it seems to me that there might be ways of including more people in achieving this and so enabling a  equitable  city for all of its citizens and visitors.

Continue reading

Pedestrians x Urban Development vs BRT X Cars

Isn’t this the truth all planners and urban designers are hiding from  – we are in love with our cars and the motor industry is doing everything in its power to sell more – Europe’s fate depends on it – Isn’t that what makes Germany able to pay for all its poor lazy cousins in the South? Cape Town’s much vaunted BRT system no doubt helps a bit of congestion – but at what astronomical price?

From URBAN TIMES by 

This is my debut on Urban Times and after thinking much about what kind of issues I would like to propose in this very first publication, I realized that nothing could express my future contribution here better than a ‘urbanist’ discussion involving pedestrians and urban development.

I’m Brazilian. I came from the “new world”, more exactly, from the “most developed city” in Brazil in terms of the quality of life. Curitiba is well known between architects and urbanists all around the world because of its supposedly innovative transportation system. This is nothing but a special bus lane, wherein bi-articulated buses circulate carrying almost 1 million passengers per day. These buses are powered by gasoline. They cross the city from its two principal axes: north-south and east-west. Commuters are formed mainly by workers and students that don’t have a driving license yet.

In Curitiba, there are no metro or trams. Electric vehicles are far from making an appearance on the streets and even bio-diesel, the ecological fuel produced in the country, is not filling up all the bus tanks (very few vehicles use this kind of gas). But this same proud city, which has already won many international prizes, including the Sustainable Transport Award 2010, from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), also holds the amazing record of having the biggest automobile fleet in Brazil. With a population of 1.7 million people, Curitiba has more than 1.2 million cars on the streets. That is, 0.71 cars for each citizen!

Curitiba transportation system (JoelRocha/SMCS)

This absurd statistic, based on more recent demographic numbers provided by IBGE (Brazilian institute of statistics), clearly shows how unsuccessful the transportation system is. But, in a country where a car represents a social status, this reality not only shows social problems but also exhibits an urban development dilemma where cars are more important than people and the urban areas are made to make circulation easy for motorized wheels. This model, I have to say, is responsible for the deserted streets that propitiates the rising of urban violence (no people on the street = perfect habitat for criminals).

Living in Paris since April, I sadly feel that Brazilians cities, Curitiba especially, are driving in reverse. While my hometown stimulates more and more people to have their own cars, and simply ignores the existence of the bicycles, what I see in Paris is a surprisingly good example of urban policies that are trying to put the automobiles away without risking city development. In this moment, two of the most important public projects will transform areas of the intense traffic into pleasant pedestrianised spaces.

The first one is taking place around the Place de la République, one of the most crucial circulation axes of the French capital, on the way to the north of the city. Until 2013, the area will be entirely rehabilitated to become a pedestrian’s paradise, free of cars. The second one will reconfigure the left bank of the Seine, bringing an even more expressive transformation. About 2.4 km of the lanes will be closed down to traffic and in its place will be constructed an sporting and leisure facility, including gardens and floating islands, where cultural events will entertain (more) the day-to-day life of Parisians.

A vision of the future bank (image source: REUTERS/Apur/JC Choblet)

So if I go back to my introductory proposition: does this old-fashioned habit of walking, increasing everyday here in Europe, makes life easier, or does it serves as a barrier on the development of emerging countries, such as Brazil?