Earlier this year the eThekwini Municipality took the ground-breaking step to extend interim services to selected informal settlements. The project is being piloted in two settlements, Redcliffe and Kenville – home to an estimated 2 800 families, where roads, pathways, electrical services and storm-water drainage are being rolled out.
In the past the prevailing emphasis on delivering a full housing product shifted the focus away from the delivery of basic services to a wider population in dire need. Faizal Seedat, senior manager at eThekwini, says, “The principle of the interim services initiative acknowledges that there are a large number of informal settlement communities that would simply have to wait years before the housing programme reaches them, but given their location, close to social and economic opportunities, there is no reason why such communities cannot be serviced immediately.”
eThekwini project executive, Alan Kee, adds, “The pilot projects are being closely monitored so that lessons learnt can be applied to facilitate the rapid rollout of interim services to other settlements in eThekwini when the budget becomes available.”
According to Kee the priority is to provide roads and pathways, which will enable emergency services to access these areas in times of need. Once the roads are completed, electricity connections will be installed, as part of the Electricity for All programme. Currently, many houses in the informal settlements obtain electricity via illegal connections, which are also a safety hazard.
Evan Smith, lead project manager at Aurecon, which is managing the projects on behalf of the eThekwini Municipality, says, “The project teams are working closely with the local councillors, community leaders and eThekwini personnel to ensure that the communities affected buy into the project.
“In every case meetings are held with the community and their leaders. This ensures that the people resident in the settlement are fully informed about the project and aware of the benefits that will accrue to the community. We have received important feedback in these meetings. In one case the budget originally allocated to build a road was used to build footpaths instead, at the request of the community.”
The contractors involved on the pilot projects are also working on the municipality’s water and sanitation project, which aims to provide potable water and ablution facilities to 800 000 people living in informal settlements within the eThekwini metropolitan area. In both cases mainstream contractors engage local subcontractors to work with them as part of an informal skills development programme and to boost localised employment.
“Community upliftment and development are key components of our strategy. We are committed to working with other stakeholders to ensure that service delivery to informal settlements continues to improve,” says Kee.