Durban Flood: The Ringing Alarms On Climate Change


By Anshika Mishra

Apr 25, 2022 climate change, Environment

As the death toll of the Durban flood is rising above 440, The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a state of national emergency. Many research and observatory organizations claim that the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal and other regions of the country are beginning of the cataclysmic effects of climate change.

But what truly is behind the Durban Flood? And what is the role of climate change?

A Climate Catastrophe: Severe Weather, Heavy Rainfall, and Flooding in South Africa

Severe weather, heavy rain, and flooding are on the minds of many South Africans. Early last week, a number of regions in the country witnessed a record-breaking rain fall, with many areas recording over 300mm within 24 hours. This is about one-third of KwaZulu-Natal’s total annual rainfall.

According to local authorities, severe rains in the coastal city of Durban and the neighboring KwaZulu-Natal state have killed more than 400 people, wrecked 4,000 homes, and displaced 40,000 others. In addition, many people have gone missing, and the destruction of property and infrastructure is still in billions of dollars.

Durban Flood

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national disaster and dispatched troops to assist in the reconstruction of damaged roads and bridges and the management of search and rescue activities, which include the distribution of food, water, and clothes to flood victims.

In addition, the South African government has declared that it will pay for some of the rehabilitation operations with cash from the national COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, which was established to assist South Africa in its battle against COVID.

What is Behind the Devastating Durban Flood?

The devastating rainfall was expected to be triggered by a severe cut-off low weather system off southern Africa’s east coast. However, cut-off lows are a common occurrence of this cost during the month of fall. These can result in both localized floods and large-scale wave occurrences.

However, since 2016, the port city of Durban has been flooding practically every year. According to the eThekiwini data portal, storms responsible for catastrophic floods generally pout about 100mm-150mm rainfall in 24 hours.

But the rainfall that hit on April 11–12–2022 has dumped considerably more rain in the region than ever before. The results are disastrous floods, landslides, and fatalities in hundreds.

Though it is impossible to say with certainty that the storm was one of the devastating impacts of climate change, experts anticipate that extreme weather events like the one in Durban will likely become more common.

The Correlation Between Durban Flood and Climate Change

The Durban flood has put climate change’s national, regional, continental, and even global implications in the vivid foreground. According to a recent report released earlier this month by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the window of opportunity for action is rapidly closing. African countries are particularly exposed to the threat of climate change.

A recent essay in WPR highlighted that West Africa’s 4,000-mile coast, which stretches from Mauritania to Cameroon, is particularly vulnerable to increasing sea levels, such as erosion and floods.

What is the Role of Climate Change?

On the ruinous rainfall on April 11, the weather system that precipitated the flood poured almost 300 mm of rain in 24 hours.

Compared with the prior major flooding events, this year’s rainfalls top the chart with a significant increase from April 22, 2019, with 165mm of rainfall and 108mm of rainfall on October 10, 2017.

According to researchers, the quantity of rain poured on Monday was equivalent to nearly 75% of South Africa’s typical annual precipitation. And raining would be enough for the floods even if there has been no other contributing factor.

“In Durban, for instance, in February, which is the wettest month, we normally get about 102 millimeters of rain in the whole month. So climate change is here.”

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister COGTA

According to Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, University of KwaZulu-Natal, the weather was typical of the sort that occurs off the coast of South Africa, with moisture-laden warm air pouring in from the Indian Ocean. This steep topography is that part of South Africa caused the air to climb, chill, and create rain clouds.

It argues that individual weather occurrences happening over short durations should not be attributed to long-term patterns such as global warming.

However, specialists at SAWS claim that as a result, severe and extreme weather events are becoming more often and more powerful. Extreme rainfall is growing more regularly in the region as a result of global warming, according to a new analysis by scientists that looked at storms in southern Africa earlier in 2022.

Durban Flood: Other Factors in Play

Some residents are also blaming the catastrophe on the quality of local infrastructure, noticing the lack of effort in fixing drainage systems and roads and badly constructed buildings.

The Durban region is steep and crisscrossed by gorges and rivers, and landslides are common on occasions. Experts, however, agree that while geography plays a role, inadequate urban infrastructure has also played a key role in worsening the devastation.

The escalating population in the Durban region is expected to be another factor in the play.

Source: News 24

Following the end of the apartheid regime in the 1990s, the population of the Durban area grew. Before then, it was regulated by racial laws that gave white people the upper hand.

Official data reveals that the municipality’s population rose by 2.3 percent in the five years between 1996 and 2001. After that, however, the city’s population growth slowed, although it increased. This put a strain on the existing infrastructure, which could not keep up with the demand.

Following severe floods in 2019, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged authorities to address infrastructure concerns as soon as possible, including conducting “a critical examination of stormwater drainage systems.”

Given the area’s aging and decaying infrastructure and the additional problems brought by more extreme weather, experts believe greater resources are required.

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