Towards measuring the informal city : a societal metabolism approach

Smit, Suzanne ; Musango, Josephine K. ; Kovacic, Zora ; Brent, Alan C. (2018)

CITATION: Smit, S., et al. Towards measuring the informal city : a societal metabolism approach. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23(3):674-685, doi:10.1111/jiec.12776.

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The rapid growth of urban informal settlements or slums, poses a particular challenge for balancing developmental and environmental goals. In South Africa, high levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment contribute to widespread migration. The influx of migrant workers to cities however is rarely matched with adequate housing and infrastructure, resulting in the formation and growth of urban informal settlements. Despite the persistence of the slum phenomenon, very few studies provide an in-depth understanding of the metabolic processes that link these spaces, and informal economies, to the broader urban environment and economy. This article therefore utilised a multi-scale integrated assessment of the societal and ecosystem metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach to examine human activity and land use in Enkanini, an urban informal settlement in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The results highlight a number of issues to be addressed through spatial, developmental, and local economic policy such as the need for improved transport linkages. The time use results show that Enkanini is a net provider of labour to the surrounding area. Further, geographic mapping indicates Enkanini as a small, but vibrant, informal economy, whilst being grossly underserviced in terms of water, waste, and sanitation infrastructure. Key implications are discussed in terms of the theoretical, methodological, societal and policy impact of the study, including the need for city observatories that conduct regular data collection and analysis.

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