, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 335-348

Bridging “expert” and “local” knowledge for counter-disaster planning in urban South Africa

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Abstract

Rapid and spatially concentrated urbanization in South Africa has brought with it significant health and safety hazards. Political democracy and the dismantling of apartheid open the possibility of vigorous community participation in the identification and mitigation of such hazards. However there are severe obstacles to combining the expert knowledge of outside scientists with local knowledge of residents of the townships and squatter camps. This papers describes the common genesis of urban environmental hazards and the split between expert and local knowledge. They arise as twin products of the apartheid system that destroyed rural livelihoods, forcing Africans into over-crowded urban enclaves, denied them most educational opportunities and skilled employment, and denigrated local knowledge and self-help initiatives. This legacy must be overcome in the interest of hazard reduction in the New South Africa.