Towards a Robust Society (Civil Project)

This is a project where a method for assessing the robustness of a neighbourhood/residential area has been introduced and applied in Buffalo City Municipality in South Africa. The purpose of the project was to investigate and evaluate the use of the Swedish analysis method for assessing the robustness of a neighbourhood /residential area. The ideas of the robustness method have been developed by the National board of Housing and the former Swedish Agency for Civil Emergency Planning (ÖCB). The method has never before been used in South Africa.

Robustness is a concept of a society’s ability of managing unwanted developments and events of threats in terms of preventing crises and serious events, and reducing the negative consequences. One of the main objectives of a robust society is to develop a local self-sufficiency so that essential needs can be provided in everyday situations as well as in events of different crisis, such as natural disasters, longer disruption of water and electricity supply etc. Robustness is formed by three different aspects ecological, technical and social robustness that in a larger perspective represents the robust society.

Economical issues, which also can be referred to economical robustness, are included in all three aspects in different ways. The main focus was implementing the robustness method in Buffalo City. Three areas where selected for the implementation, which consisted of vulnerability and risk assessments that were applied according to the outlines recommended by the developers. The results were further used in a comprehensive analysis of the areas robustness. The studies were carried out in Duncan Village Proper, Amalinda and KwaDikidikana, areas with different preconditions and structures.

Duncan village Proper is a very disadvantaged residential area with very poor social conditions and limited service. The area consists mainly of informal settlements and is part of the larger township Duncan Village, located in East London. Amalinda is a high serviced middle class residential area with a mixed population of Black and White residents that is located not far from Duncan Village. KwaDikidikana is located fairly isolated in the rural, in northwest Buffalo City, near the municipality’s second largest city King William’s Town. KwaDikidikana is a village with some traditional culture still preserved. The area has a moderate service of water and electricity.

In general the service is very low. Most are self-sufficient in cultivation. Robustness in Duncan Village Proper is considered to be very low, mainly because of the poor social conditions, in terms of poor living conditions, exposed to hazards such as fire, crime, flooding, and landslides, and low self-sufficiency. Robustness in Amalinda is high compared to the other study areas, regarding better housing, social service and infrastructure. However, the residential area is very vulnerable to longer disruptions of service supply, because of the dependence of distribution and the lack of local supplements and is exposed to several hazards of significance.

KwaDikidikana has a better survival level than the other areas, but is fragile in terms of robustness, which is considered moderate, practically low. Mainly because of the low level of essential needs, such as transportation, waste management and other vital facilities, which presently has a deteriorating affect on the environment and health. The robustness in these three areas varies considerably, which depends on the different preconditions and geographical locations.

Robustness assessments must be formed by the distinguished preconditions of the society, such as geographic location, climate, technical development, and social conditions, essential factors that form the fundamental basis for ecological, technical and social robustness. The basic concept and the ideas of discussions are most necessary and relevant to social planning in the implementation process. Increasing public participation is vital to the democratic process in social planning as well as to robustness. Establishing social networks is a way to increase a better communication between residents and authorities. Theses are some of the important conclusions of the evaluation of the implementation.
Source: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Author: Jansson, Erik

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