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Urban erosion


Soil erosion is mostly studied for rural regions in dryland settings, whereas only few studies on the areal extent, pattering and severity of soil erosion exist in urban settings. This project aimed at mapping and quantifying the extent and severity of water erosion in a dryland city (Windhoek in Namibia) using a snap-shot field survey approach.

The results show that nearly 56% of the city is affected by water erosion showing signs of accelerated erosion in the form of rills and gullies, which occurred mainly in the underdeveloped, informal and semi-formal areas of the city. Factors influencing the extent of erosion in Windhoek included vegetation cover and type, socio-urban factors and to a lesser extent slope estimates. A comparison of an interpolated field survey erosion map with a conventional erosion assessment tool (the Universal Soil Loss Equation) depicted a large deviation in spatial patterns, which underlines the inapplicability of traditional non-urban erosion tools to urban settings and emphasises the need to develop new erosion assessment and management methods for urban environments. It was concluded that measures for controlling water erosion in the city need to be site-specific as the extent of erosion varied largely across the city.

During fieldwork on urban erosion in Windhoek, several contradictory messages were given to us from both private land owners and public officers regarding the severity of urban erosion as well as its associated damage and responsibility. A number of stakeholders refused the mere existence of any soil erosion damage even though severe damage at communal and private infrastructure was evident. A qualitative stakeholder study aimed at understanding the perception and awareness of soil erosion occurrence and damages for different stakeholder groups for the dryland city Windhoek.

We hypothesised that there is probably little awareness of the phenomenon of soil erosion across all sectors of stakeholders (land owners, authorities, companies), up to the degree that there is denial of erosion occurrence, especially in the group of decision-makers and implementators of management guidelines; however there will be more awareness of a certain type of damage on houses, yards, paths, parking lots and roads, such as rills, gullies, cracks in houses. We also believed that the understanding of soil erosion and its underlying mechanisms are very patchy and site-specific. And thirdly, we hypothesized that there is no clear understanding on who is responsible for the implementation of erosion prevention control measures (e.g. house owners or city authorities), which is particularly pronounced for inhabitants of informal settlements. We envisaged that the stakeholder groups will not accept responsibilities regarding prevention control and payments for damages (i.e. house owners group will state it is a responsibility for the municipality group, and vice-versa). To test these ideas, the following objectives were formulated: 1) determine the stakeholders’ awareness on the severity and locations of soil erosion, 2) examine the perceived responsibilities for damages and prevention measures within different groups of stakeholders and 3) determine the stakeholders’ understanding and prior knowledge of natural processes and landscape features that result in water erosion.



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