For immediate release

01 March 2016 

World Bank Releases Report of Impact of Rapid Urbanisation and Climate Change on Durban’s Environment

The World Bank released a report today on the impact rapid urbanisation and climate change has had on eThekwini’s environment. The report titled, Promoting Green Urban Development in African Cities, provides an urban environmental profile of the City of eThekwini.

It found that the natural environment of eThekwini which is located in a global biodiversity hotspot, has been put under severe pressure due to various drivers including rapid urbanisation and climate change. These have contributed to the degradation of the City’s environmental assets, such as rare and threatened ecosystems and rivers and coastal wetlands, undermining human wellbeing and the economic prospects of the City, according to the report.

The City has developed in a fragmented pattern including high growth in peri-urban areas that has encroached into natural habitats and conservation areas, threatening the City’s long term sustainability as the degradation of the City’s natural resource base has direct economic and financial costs

EThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo welcomed the partnership between the City and the World Bank as well as the report that has been produced.

“The report confirms that our environment is under stress due to a range of drivers. But there are some opportunities, and by highlighting these and the contribution that the City’s natural resource base makes to development, this document will help us to more effectively promote sustainable and inclusive development,” he said.

Nxumalo said even though our Municipality is a global leader in aspects of environmental management, the quality of our natural environment continues to decline in the face of multiple threats like urbanisation and urban sprawl, pollution, invasive alien species and unsustainable harvesting of natural resources and climate change.

“The situation in Durban suggests that current policy, law, governance and environmental management efforts need to be reviewed to prevent this degradation. Under conditions of global environmental change, enhanced protection of ecologically viable ecosystems is becoming increasingly important in meeting the health, social, cultural and economic needs of urban communities,” Nxumalo added. 

Fortunately eThekwini starts from a relatively strong position as the report found that while the City faces challenges in implementing and enforcing environmental regulations, it compares favorably with other cities in terms of remaining national assets and on environmental management in areas such as conservation planning, developing an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and resiliency planning for climate change adaptation. 

The report shows that the recent growth experienced by eThekwini as a multi nodal City, and particularly the growth of poorly managed informal settlements, have been key drivers of the degradation of the City’s natural environment. For instance, the lack of sanitation infrastructure in about 67 percent households in informal settlements which directly or indirectly discharge effluent into Municipal rivers, has an impact on water quality. 

Furthermore, legal and illegal sand mining remove one-third of all sediment flows from rivers, driving river shoreline and beach erosion. Beaches in eThekwini are losing 280,000 cubic meters of sand every year and experience continuous decline of seawater quality.

The report finds that climate change is placing further strain, due to increasing levels of rainfall, which contribute to runoff levels that exceed the capacity of the City’s infrastructure, causing flooding and the spread of pollution.

The report shows that there has been progressive loss of terrestrial assets and degradation of aquatic and estuarine assets. All but three of eThekwini’s 16 estuaries are degraded and a number of vegetation types face local extinction, with the endangered Sandstone Sourveld which once covered 6 percent of eThekwini, covering only 2 percent in 2009. 

Furthermore, 24 percent of eThekwini’s original wetlands have been permanently lost due to historical agriculture uses.

Enhanced local-level implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations throughout land under Traditional Authority and the eThekwini Municipal Authority are among the recommendations in the report. 

It also recommends the integration of strategic and financial planning across sectors as well as the development of Green Urban Development strategies for specific areas and investments.

In addition, improved, appropriate management of the urbanisation process including basic service delivery and upgrading in informal settlements, would help the City better manage the environment. The report also cites improved liquid waste infrastructure and services using appropriate technologies and cost-recovery measures and long-term watershed and water supply management in its recommendations. 

“The collaboration with eThekwini Municipality has been very productive and exemplifies the leading role that eThekwini plays in the field of city environmental management in Africa and the World,” said Roland White, World Bank Global Lead for City Management, Governance and Financing.


Issued by the World Bank Group and eThekwini Municipality. 

For more information contact Zandile Ratshitanga from World Bank on 073 888 5962 or email: Zandile Ratshitanga​ or Gugu Mbonambi from eThekwini Municipality on 031 311 4855 or email: 

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