Government’s plan for sustainable cities is unsustainable

14 May 2012

The recent article “SA’s vision of sustainable cities revealed” (11 May 2012), by the South African government’s news agency BuaNews, unveiling plans to “turn the country’s major cities into sustainable economic hubs,” raise some misalignment to the way Future Cape Town has been capturing the views of the generation it represents.

The Strategic Integrated Project 7 (Sip 7), by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Richard Baloyi, includes proposals to unlock mineral beneficiation potential in the mining sector in cities, building housing closer to where people work, as well as building integrated transport systems.

It is pleasing to note that Cape Town is one of the 12 major cities included in the plan.

“Sadly the plans and proposals mentioned for Cape Town appear out of touch with the real infrastructure needs of the region, and the barriers which present themselves,” notes Rashiq Fataar, MD at Future Cape Town.

The article states that “R2 billion has been earmarked for a new rail link that connects Cape Town International Airport and the city centre”, a glamorous luxury item, incompatible with the more pressing rail investments required in the metropolitan region.

“This investment would much better serve the medium to long term needs, by expanding the rail system in Cape Town, along corridors identified by research and planning,” says Fataar.

“One such way is to cater for the need for additional rail links emanating from the Metro South-East to the west and north of the city, which would nullify the need for the duplication of public transport services by the Bus Rapid Transit system.

“An airport rail link, given the considerable investment (likely more R2 billion) should not be included as an immediate priority in the infrastructure needs of Cape Town and its surrounds,” urges Fataar.

Future Cape Town suggests that the massive infrastructure plans announced by President Jacob Zuma, should firstly serve the poor and marginalized. Only then can the aim for cities to become economic hubs succeed.

In addition to the proposed luxury rail link, brief mention is made of the need to build human settlements closer to where people work, a strategy which can go some distance to build a more sustainable city, by reducing the need to rely on private or public transport.

Further information is required on exactly how this will be achieved, especially in the light of the battles several local governments face when negotiating the release of strategically located land parcels. Some of these are owned and held onto by government-funded organizations e.g. Transnet’s stance on Culemborg.

The 20-year time period for the implementation of the infrastructure investment programme demands that sufficient consultation takes place with local governments, to gain a proper understanding of their infrastructure needs.

“Foresight combined with a grip of the realities of urbanization in our cities, will go some way in accelerating Cape Town, and other South African cities in becoming sustainable economic hubs,” concludes Fataar.

Issued by:

Media Office, Future Cape Town