In the August meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, officials repeated the mantra that Capetonians need to conserve energy. The city could experience a shortage of fresh water and electricity in the future if locals do not change the manner in which we utilize these resources. In Cape Town the transport sector (50%) is the major consumer of energy, residents uses 18%, government 1%, commerce uses 17% and industry uses 14%.

These statistics suggest that locals must reduce the energy consumption of the transport sector. As an example, every morning driving towards the city, I observe thousands of children on route to city schools, via car, train, bus and taxi. The cost effective and ecological approach would be to duplicate the educational experience where the schoolchildren reside. Proximity to school should reduce endemic lateness, decrease traffic flow into the city, minimize illegal school taxis and lower the existing burden on metro-rail. Building maintenance on dilapidated old school buildings, carbon emissions and overall petrol consumption could benefit. The land value of the existing city schools should cover the cost of new, modern and eco- friendly educational infrastructure closer to the student.

The development of middle and high income apartments could add to the densification of the city, reducing the need to spread beyond the urban edge. This alleviates the threat to ecologically sensitive areas and farmlands required to grow food. This approach is in sharp contrast to the development of low cost housing in the city which is not feasible as low income households generally cannot fully pay for services. Those that require subsidized municipal services will benefit as the city will receive additional revenue (rates and levies) from the economic opportunities created from underutilized state resources. Children who spend hours travelling will be less stressed and parents will save on the daily transport cost.

On the flip side, from a social-political perspective this honest proposal could be interpreted as an attempt to keep the lower income stream out of the city as most students are from black and coloured townships. That township parents assume schooling in the city is better must be investigated. By temporally side-stepping the anxiety of gangsterism and lazy educators at township schools does not solve any problem. Because middle income families prefer fee schools and wealthy parents can afford private schools, Capetonians have unfortunatly succeeded in enabling a “class strata” thru the progression of education.

Whatever our collective ecological future holds in Cape Town, at some point, political and economic leaders will have to address Apartheid spacial planning within the context that progress like everything, costs money. Historical political relevance and emotions will add little value if we fail to manage limited resources. In conclusion, no amount of partisan grandstanding and political intrigue will comfort Capetonians when we shower in the dark with recycled cold water.

Yagyah Adams -Cape Muslim Congress

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