John and Nomtha’s stories of localised flooding

In Sweet Home Farm (SHF), extreme flooding events are understood as a continuous fact of life. This attitude reflects the prevalence of the problem, and the incapacity of the settlement to manage it. Nomtha and John attribute this predominantly to the abandonment of the settlement by governmental and CoCT powers. ‘We are the deserted ones,’ Nomtha proclaims, explaining that during her 20-year residence, no action has been taken to improve SHF in any meaningful capacity, creating a destitute, hopeless population. John adds to this, claiming that the township suffers from abandonment issues that deprive the community of hope in amending the flooding problem, but also for their own life prospects.

‘It is an experience that most people don’t conquer,’ explains John, citing the psychological damage felt when property and belongings of SHF residents are ruined, and the physical discomfort and illness caused by the flooding experience. Of the latter, Nomtha suggests that one is either affected or infected by flooding in this township, as even if you are not the direct victim of demoralising property damage, the all-surrounding lakes of stinking green, wast-riddled water are inescapable, especially since most SHF residents lack domestic access to taps and toilets.

Managing such crises is often an individual process or one dependant on one’s immediate neighbours in SHF since, John and Nomtha argue, competent building materials and additional support is not provided by the CoCT partly due to its seeing flooding as not extreme enough of a problem. However, even when rare infrastructural developments are made, they don’t guarantee success, largely due to the magnitude of the intersecting development challenges in the settlement but also due to a lack of appropriate resource allocation.

Drainage systems, for example, are rarely functional, as they’re clogged with waste by residents who feel that they have no feasible access to disposal resources, as they are often far away and completely inaccessible during the frequent instances of flooding. Nobody tends to assume responsibility for such infrastructural failings- including both SHF residents and municipal authorities, which exacerbates the problem and the perceived futility of tackling it. Moreover, newly built government houses in the township displayed evidence of lasting water damage, such accommodation being of poor building standard.

Flooding is projected to worsen significantly with the augmentation of extreme weather events, as temperature increases induce intensified rainfall patterns. The impact of climate-related flooding is likely to be most extremely felt in densely populated urban areas, especially those such as SHF, which is positioned on a wetland and lacks accessibility to basic provisions and competent infrastructure. The Water and Fire project strives towards a platform from which competent infrastructural development towards flood prevention especially may occur. It aims to achieve this through democratic engagement with SHF residents in order to identify how hope and accountability can be encouraged, and through technical expertise as to allow for more astute, tactical investments into the township to help foster such sentiments and in turn coping mechanisms.