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African cities facing climate change


African cities facing climate change

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The rainy season was supposed to have started in Johannesburg at the same time as the rest of South Africa but it hasn’t rained for months now. This drought is one of the effects of climate change.

International institutions and governments are struggling to find a solution to the problem, but what can the towns do? This is one of the questions raised at the Africities summit meeting which has just been held in Johannesburg.

“We are working on a programme that is generating electricity from our landfill sites,” says Mayor of Johannesburg Parks Tau. “We also have our own generation plan for electricity at our waste water treatment plants. And we have programmes about converting our buses to dual fuel buses which are currently running on a system that’s a dual fuel that uses diesel and biogas. The idea is that progressively we get more reliable gas sources that we would be able to convert fully to gas.”

It’s not only the large cities that are reconsidering their development strategies. The smallest towns are also trying to ‘go green’. One such town is Ross-Bethio, a small community of 12 000 inhabitants in the north of Senegal. This area is known for the cultivation of rice. The town’s mayor is examining ways of exploiting this resource to a greater advantage.

“We are looking at creating a programme to avoid using charcoal or even gas, and to use rice straw instead,” explains Mayor of Ross-Béthio Amadou Bécaye Diop. “This would be a great economy as the rice straw allows a much longer burning time than charcoal. This would mean that we wouldn’t have to chop wood and destroy the forests. We would therefore achieve our target and make Ross-Bethio a “green” town.

Many African towns have problems with electricity cuts but the solution is right there, solar panels. Vincent Kitio, a representative from the UN-Habitat agency, confirmed that their use is becoming more widespread: “I was very surprised to find in a small village in Burkina-Faso shops selling solar panels. These panels came from China and were on sale in the village shops. This means that we are finding ourselves more and more in a period of energy change because these panels are affordable and there is a demand. People are therefore turning to these new methods.”

Reinventing towns with a view to lasting development is one of the main interests of this “Africities” summit meeting which takes place every three years. At the close of this 7th edition in Johannesburg, the participants have planned to meet again in 2018 in Brazzaville.


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