Somerset flood management: Too little, too late

2013-11-22 12:30
(Photo: Angela Van Nes)

(Photo: Angela Van Nes)

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Cape Town – The City of Cape Town’s effort to manage flood risk in the Somerset West area was sporadic, incomplete, and doomed to failure even before a recent flood hit the area.

“This whole issue around the flood management scheme for the Lourens River which they are still building in little bits and pieces; it never actually gets finished, and it never actually works,” DH Environmental Consultants aquatic scientist, Dr Bill Harding told News24.

“They’ve just done a whole section behind the Pick ‘n Pay shopping centre and most of that has fallen down even before the flood came,” he said.

A large business and residential area including the Vergelegen Medi-Clinic was flooded last week when unprecedented rains struck the area and many patients had to be evacuated.

The City of Cape Town mayoral committee member, Brett Herron, has acknowledged that the area is located within the floodplain of the Lourens River, but said it was not known at the time of development in the early 1990s.

According to Harding developments in the area happened during the period when South Africa was in transition to a new democracy and no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) were carried out.

Heaviest rainfall

The City is currently in the process of implementing a flood management scheme for the river and has done channel upgrading to improve hydraulic capacity.

“We are currently in the process of investigating potential engineering solutions to manage flood waters that exit the river towards the Medi-Clinic, along what was a historical route of the river as flow patterns have unexpectedly changed,” Herron told News24.

In previously written articles Harding had warned of the potential for heavy flooding.

Local weather stations have recorded the heaviest rainfall for the past 29 years, which averages at 38mm for November.

Within a short period of time rainfall spiked to 160mm per hour and continued for about two hours at 100mm per hour [normal rate is 20-30mm per hour].

Harding said global warming has a role to play and that the future may see fewer flooding events but of greater scale.

Read Dr Bill Harding's blog

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Read more on:    cape town  |  floods
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