Douala has been characterised for decades by its strong urban growth and significant spread. This rapid and not very well-planned urbanisation (lacking an approved planning scheme between 1959 and 2012) has led in particular to settling unstable populations in wetland areas, near drains. These populations combine with a major vulnerability:
- to floods;
- socio-economic: lack of basic infrastructure, poor sanitation situation, informal activities, occupation without property title, etc.
Moreover, urbanisation leads to the degradation and disappearance of wetlands and the regulatory functions which they have played thus far; this is in a context of climate change (anticipated increase in the frequency of heavy rainfall and aggravation of the heat island phenomenon).
Consideration of the effects of climate change is more recent: Cameroon has recently published its National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2015). Douala is taking part in this process. It is at the forefront of a network to formulate responses from central African cities to environmental and climate challenges, in the context of the works of the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF).
The project is organised into four parts:
- Building on knowledge and taking into account the flood risk and effects of climate change in the city planning documents: based on an exercise in coordination with the actors (Universities, Collectors of local and national meteorological data, Design consultants, etc.), the project aims to provide Douala Urban Community (CUD) with the means to evaluate locally the flood risk and the effects of climate change, in order to take into account the urban planning documents.
- Designing and implementing a restructuring project for an at-risk inhabited area based on the recovery of a wetland area, to transform this space experienced as a risk vector (flooding and insalubrity) a major asset in the development of the area: area for storing rain water and green lung limiting heat islands and providing amenities.
- Encouraging the development of economic activities on the project site, building on existing activities (recycling and market gardening) while creating new activities made possible through the development of bodies of water.
- Capitalising to reproduce the project on similar sites: this is an overarching objective and links all actions undertaken. It is a matter both of developing know-how within the CUD (combining global thinking with local action), while also disseminating the results of the experience to encourage its reproduction in other sectors of the city.
- Introduction of a local urban observatory to monitor climate change/fine modelling of the flood risk.
- Restructuring of the at-risk inhabited areas of the site and landscape design and restoration of the wetland using a service-level approach.
- Enhancement and development of recycling and market gardening/local job creation around recreational activities.
- Capitalisation on lessons for reproduction on other sites.