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Disaster Management, Infrastructure and Human Settlements


Disaster Management, Infrastructure and Human Settlements Sector Summary 

South Africa has a diverse range of infrastructure and human settlements that experience different levels of development, access to opportunities and services, and different levels of poverty. This inequality is a result of discriminatory spatial planning under apartheid and slow development and redistribution post-apartheid. Many human settlements face serious challenges today including high levels of poverty; poor access to economic opportunities, basic services and infrastructure; and, high levels of pollution. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate these challenges.

Climate Change impacts on Disaster Management, Infrastructure and Human Settlements Sector

Changes in rainfall and temperature, and the increase in the occurrence of short term flood events will have a negative impact on human settlements. The increase in the occurrence and severity of short term flood events may damage physical infrastructure such as buildings, pipelines, roads, electricity substations, and railway lines. This will result in a loss of productivity and lead to the physical isolation of some communities who rely on transport infrastructure. People living in informal dwellings, who are already vulnerable, will experience the most risk due to the temporary nature of their housing structures. People living on the coast will also be vulnerable due to the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storms as a result of climate change. Climate change will also influence the rural – urban migration rates as those relying on farming at a subsistence level may no longer be able to do so due to the changes in climate. Climate change could also exacerbate conflict (due to competition for limited resources, caused by deteriorating environmental conditions), infrastructure failure and service delivery failure.

There are also potentially positive effects in the Human Settlement Sector relating to climate change. These include the role out of energy efficiency interventions, alternative low carbon building technologies and renewable energy generation.

The South African Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) report highlights several potential climate change impacts on the Human Settlements Sector. These have been summarised into the following:
  1. Direct impacts of weather on construction, electricity generation and other industries, resulting in loss of productivity. 
  2. Increased disruptions to key transport infrastructure (roads, rails, bridges, airports, tunnels) as a result of extreme weather events. 
  3. Increased risk of extreme weather events to already vulnerable informal dwellings and settlements, that are often unplanned, and without extensive service or infrastructure. 
  4. Physical isolation of rural communities as a result poor rural roads and increased flooding and erosion. 
  5. Increased migration from rural settlements to urban and peri-urban settlements. 
  6. Reduced income from tourism as a result of reduced recreational opportunities and increased impact on tourism-supporting infrastructure, such as conservation area access roads. 

Vulnerability Assessment in the Disaster Management, Infrastructure and Human Settlements Sector


Climate Change Vulnerability is assessed by identifying a set of climate change indicators or impacts and then assessing your exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to these indicators. The following sections provide a summary on how to conduct this assessment specifically for the Disaster Management, Infrastructure and Human Settlements Sector.

Step 1: Develop Climate Change Indicators 

The first step in a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is to develop a set of indicators. Indicators are a list of potential impacts that may take place in your area as a result of climate change. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit has developed a draft range of indicators using the Long Term Adaptation Scenario Reports. The indicators have been grouped into sectors. This page deals specifically with the Human Settlements and the list of indicators are provided in the tables below.

Step 2: Assess your Exposure to the Indicators 

The second step of a vulnerability assessment is to determine whether a particular indicator is relevant. This is termed "Exposure". Exposure is whether or not a particular impact will take place in your area.

The table below lists various indicators and links to materials to determine whether you are potentially at risk (exposed) to the impact. This is generally a "Yes/No" question.




Record your answers here and make note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Yes" to.

Step 3: Assess your Sensitivity to the Indicators

The third step of the vulnerability assessment asks the question, "if you are exposed, how important is the potential impact?" This is termed "sensitivity" and is generally assessed by a scale (e.g 1 to 5 or High, Medium, Low). For the purpose of he LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Sensitivity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Sensitivity Considerations" to help assess how sensitive you are to particular impacts.




Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Medium or High" to.

Step 4: Assess your Adaptive Capacity to the Indicators

The forth step in the vulnerability assessment asks the question: "If there are going to be significant impacts due to climate change, do you have the systems (policy, resources, social capital) to respond to the change?". The IPCC defines Adaptive Capacity as the "ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences".


For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Adaptive Capacity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Adaptive Capacity Question" which is "Do you have high, medium or low adaptive capacity (policy, institutional, social and finance) to respond to the change?".



Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Low or Medium" to.

Step 5: Develop Response Plans for Priority Indicators

Once you have completed the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity assessments, short-list the indicators that you have the following answers for:

  • Exposure - Yes 
  • Sensitivity - High or Medium 
  • Adaptive Capacity - Low or Medium 

These short-listed indicators are the indicators that you are most vulnerable to. You will now need to develop a response plan to deal with these vulnerabilities. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit includes generic responses plan for each sector (here). You can use these templates as a starting point for developing your own sector response plan.


Key Responses to Climate Change in the Human Settlements, Infrastructure and Disaster Management Sector

The Human Settlements Sector is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. The sector should be prioritised in national climate change adaptation efforts.
Role of National Departments. The Department of Human Settlements is a key role-player in ensuring that climate change vulnerabilities are identified in the human settlements sector and that guidance and resources are provided in responding to these impacts. An important role of this department is to ensure that strategies and plans developed are cascaded down to the local level. Possible role players and human settlements responses at the local level are highlighted below

Role of councillor

  • Spearhead energy efficiency, green building, and alternative transport efforts within the municipality, with a strong focus on community awareness raising. 
  • Ensure climate change risks and opportunities are considered during the integrated development plan (IDP) review and associated project planning processes. 
  • Support municipal budget allocation to climate change related interventions. 

Role of Municipal Administration

  • Develop climate change risk and vulnerability assessments for public and state-owned infrastructure. 
  • Identify priority needs and opportunities for climate resilience in the transport and critical infrastructure areas. 
  • Integrate climate change resilience into local government human settlements development planning. 
  • Ensure that transport systems consider climate change impacts and are robust to strengthen community resilience. 
  • Invest in high quality low carbon and climate resilient public infrastructure. 
  • Transition to a low carbon effective public transport system for road, rail and non-motorised transport. 
  • Develop better planning, management and long-term monitoring of water services. 
  • Manage and reduce water demand through water pressure management, usage restrictions, awareness campaigns etc. 
  • Upgrade and extend extreme weather monitoring and warning systems. 
  • Invest in improving the resilience of existing and new infrastructure. 
  • Improve ecological management such as the restoration of wetlands and managing shorelines. 

Role of Individuals

  • Ensure local infrastructure related by-laws (e.g. building regulations) are adhered to. 
  • Work together with the municipality in finding sustainable solutions for identified Transport and Infrastructure risks. 
  • Make use of alternative low carbon transport options (e.g. non-motorised transport, ride sharing schemes). 
  • Get involved in community-based programmes assisting in building resilience. 


Responses per Indicator



References Material


Use the following reference material to help assess your vulnerability to the criteria listed above:
  1. Census Data Maps
  2. Veld Fire Risk Map
  3. LTAS Phase 2 - Technical Report 2 of 7 Climate Information And Early Warning Systems
  4. LTAS Phase 2 - Technical Report 3 of 7 Disaster Risk Reduction And Management
  5. LTAS Phase 2 - Technical Report 4 of 7 Urban Rural And Coastal Human Settlements
  6. LTAS Phase 2 - Technical Report 5 of 7 Food Security
  7. LTAS Phase 2 - Technical Report 6 of 7 Future Climates In South Africa