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Cities must listen to people to find solutions for climate impacts: stories from Cape Town

A few years ago the South African city of Cape Town was close to reaching “day zero” – the day the taps would run dry as a result of a serious drought. Households had to restrict their water usage, water tariffs increased, and businesses had to rethink how they used water. But the situation affected people unequally. Households experienced it in different ways. The poor and vulnerable suffered the most.

With the changing climate, problems like these aren’t going anywhere. Water scarcity, higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will become more common, so finding ways to adapt is important. And in a city where inequality and financial pressures are deep and complex, adaptive change will take time.

It also takes information. For city planners and decision makers, data is essential – but not just quantitative data. They need to engage with people to understand how they experience issues like water scarcity.

Making sense of a water crisis.

In today’s episode of Pasha, two researchers discuss their work on inequality in water and describe a project that brought city authorities and community members together. Gina Ziervogel is in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science and Johan Enqvist is with the African Climate and Development Initiative, both at the University of Cape Town.

Photo: “Lines of people waiting to collect natural spring water for drinking in Newlands in the drought in Cape Town South Africa.” Photo by Mark Fisher Shutterstock.

Music: “Happy African Village” by John Bartmann, found on licensed under CC0 1.

“Ambient guitar X1 - Loop mode” by frankum, found on Freesound licensed under Attribution License.

Video: “Making sense of a water crisis” filmed by Odendaal Esterhuyse

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