Transition to Blue-Green infrastructure in Sub-Sahara Afrika

Project funding

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research through the project management organisation (PT) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Project duration (preliminary phase): 06/2021 - 11/2021

Project partner

Unit for Environmental Research and Management of the North-West University, Potchefstroom in South Africa

Background and Problem Statement

Around the world, climate-related extremes are becoming more frequent. The vulnerability of many ecosystems as well as human systems such as urban infrastructure is increasingly perceivable. Effects of climate extremes for water supply, damages to infrastructures, food security, human health and well-being are occurring in various countries around the globe. These effects are intensifying due to missing preparedness and adaptation at all levels of urban planning. This situation is perceivable in Germany and many African countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is especially exposed to the impacts of climate change. Water shortages in the Cape Town region and heat stress around Johannesburg have been reported extensively in the media in the last years.

Aim and Approach

For reducing vulnerability and exposure to climate-related effects, sustainable approaches such as Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) will support the adaptation towards more climate-resilient urban spaces and the reduction of risks for its citizens. This will lead to improved human health, environmental quality, livelihoods, social and economic welfare. BGI is one engineering solution, which provides a verified and sustainable approach. The implementation of BGI requires a modified infrastructure. The transition of existing technical infrastructures in the field of water and wastewater management towards BGI aiming for climate adaption is a complex process. A diverse set of aspects such as technical, social and administrative factors at all urban levels must be addressed. Thus, the research project aims to assess three levels of investigation: At the macro level, relevant stakeholders and processes for a transition towards BGI will be assessed. The main research goal is the derivation of courses of action at the strategy building level to enable the stakeholders for accelerating the transition to BGI. The meso level refers to the specific local framework conditions. These essentially include socio-economic, ecological, spatial planning and resource management aspects. This research aims to deliver an evaluation framework for local stakeholders enabling them to assess the implementation paths for BGI. At micro level, obstacles for future implementation on site are addressed. This includes aspects of hygiene, structural-physical applicability and required technical adaptations. Based on the identified settlement typologies, the components of BGI will be investigated and suitable approaches identified.

During the main phase of the project, PhD- and Master-candidates will address the identified research questions in their theses. Furthermore, an extensive range of capacity building measures, a mentoring program and various networking activities will establish a supportive environment to ensure high-quality research. The project will focus in particular on the promotion of young female researchers.