People's perceptions of flood hazards and their attitudes towards resettlement: a case study of the community of Azalea in the Greater Edendale Complex, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Maphanga, Koekie Constance.
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The thesis addresses flooding as a natural disaster which has, on occasions, occurred in many parts of South Africa, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and Orange Free State. The prevailing impression is that the flood situation is worsening in KwaZulu-Natal. In the floods of 1987 which inundated a greater part of this province, more than three hundred and eighty people lost their lives. Recently, the flash flood that hit the Greater Edendale area near Pietermaritzburg on Christmas Day 1995 resulted in the death of approximately one hundred and sixty people. The latter figure is relatively high when considering the fact that only a small part of the province was affected. Why do floods kill so many people and destroy their property? The answer is not because rainfall has increased but it lies in the development of floodplains for settlement. It has been estimated that at the beginning of 1993, between 50 000 and 100 000 people in South Africa have settled within flood lines. Now the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry estimates that 150 000 people are currently living at risk under the flood line. With this considerable number of people living at risk, there is an urgent need for an action. A concerted effort is required from the responsible authorities, the communities affected, and the people of South Africa as a whole in order to alleviate and if possible eradicate this problem (floodplain settlement and subsequent loss). Resettlement of these people is an obvious solution to this problem. However, those people who live in flood prone areas (affected communities) should be engaged in any envisaged relocation strategy. That is one of the reasons why this study was undertaken. The aim of this study is to understand the affected communities' perceptions of flood hazards and their attitudes towards relocation. But why is it necessary to understand people's perceptions and attitudes? The reason is to get an understanding of how these people view the problem of flooding and solutions thereto so as to make informed recommendations that can be adopted by responsible authorities in endeavouring to combat the problem. This study was undertaken in Azalea, a residential area m the Greater Edendale Complex (Pietermaritzburg). Azalea is an example of a community under threat from flooding. The method used in data gathering is called Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). PRA was preferred because it is community oriented. In order to accomplish the aim of this study, two hundred and fifty (250) people were interviewed. This figure is used as representative of the community of Azalea. For the purposes of this study, the interviewees were divided into flood victims and non- flood victims. The purpose of this division was to record the different perceptions of these two categories of people regarding floods. It was discovered, among others, that people's perceptions tend to influence their attitudes towards relocation. Sixty eight percent of the people interviewed foresaw future flooding, twenty four percent did not while the remaining eight percent were not sure. Furthermore, it was discovered that seventy two percent were in favour of resettlement while the remaining twenty eight percent were not. On the basis of these findings, recommendations such as resettlement of those living on the floodplains and education of the public about the dangers associated with floodplain settlement are made. Finally, it is important for the responsible authorities to note that in order to address the problems associated with current forms of floodplain ·development and land use, there is a need to adhere to the following fundamental principles: (a) Both the causes and consequences of the problem must be addressed, (b) If the fundamental causes- poverty, ignorance, landlessness, lack of commitment - are ignored, any attempts to address the consequences will fail, ( c) If the consequences are ignored the risk to life and livelihoods will continue in the short term and the economy of the country will be compromised with every flood event.