Monday, November 8, 2010
Climate Change and Adaptation in Urban Areas
Everywhere I go my mind is filled with climate change: vulnerability and adaptation. I live in the capital of Ghana, Accra, at a suburb called South La Estates. La is also known by many as Labadi. When I first got to my new place about a year ago, I thought that was all Labadi was until Monday when I had to pick a mini-bus (known in Ghana as trotro) to work and I got to know Labadi proper. Whilst the driver meandered through the streets of the “other Labadi” I was seeing, I couldn’t help but think of how differently Climate Change would affect the two Labadis I am seeing: the well-planned South Labadi with clean drains and the slum Labadi I was seeing now.
In places like Labadi and other slums in Accra and other places most of the buildings are sub-standard and obviously not suitable for habitation. Most of these residents are tenants and have no power to develop quality buildings and their landlords are exploiting them. Such residents are usually economic refugees who have moved to the city to seek greener pastures; most of whom inhabit very marginal areas. The influx of people into such marginal and usually flood-prone areas coupled with lack of planning in infrastructure makes them highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change including extreme flooding and storms.
We are all vulnerable to climate change but the effects will be disproportionate depending on how one will be able to adapt. The recent floods that have happened in Accra and other places bring to the fore the unfortunate reality that urban communities are increasingly becoming very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One may argue that such flooding as witnessed may be due to other factors other than climate change but I believe that climate change is one of the factors. Even if it is not, we are being awakened to the vulnerability of urban populations to floods and storms; which are projected to increase in the face of climate change.
It is time to act locally to save our people and urban communities to adapt to the effects of climate change. The local governments should be resourced well to plan adaptation strategies for urban dwellers, especially those in slums. This is not the time to decide which communities or settlements are legal or illegal. It is time to plan and save. This will need everybody to get on deck: local governments, donor agencies, central government and vulnerable communities. People should be made aware of climate change and its effects and also whip-up their willingness to act.