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Dr Walter Musakwa

Home country: Zimbabwe

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: December 2013

Department:  Geography and Environmental Studies

Supervisor: Dr Adriaan van Niekerk

Dissertation title: Evaluating the potential of earth observation for supporting sustainable urban land use planning

​Abstract: In many developing countries, rapid urbanisation continues to substantially transform land from agricultural and rural land uses, as well as natural landscapes into urban areas. This leads to significant changes to the socio-economic fabric and nature of the natural environment. Data to monitor such transformation is often out of date, unreliable, in unstandardised format, cumbersome and expensive to collect or simply unavailable in urban centres of many developing countries. These characteristics inhibit local authorities' and other stakeholders' capacity to monitor and leverage resources toward sustainable urban development. Sustainable urban land use planning is a major objective of urban planning, but it is difficult to put into practice. This study investigates the efficacy of earth observation (EO) for collecting information required for sustainable urban land use planning and proposes the use of decision consequence analysis (DCA) as a simple and structured way to put sustainable urban development into practice. The study focuses on three central determinants of sustainable urban land use, namely (1) land use change and land use mix, (2) urban sprawl and (3) the urban built-up area. Consequently, urban sustainability indicators of these three components were identified. EO data for Stellenbosch, a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa, was gathered and used to perform spatio-temporal analyses of the indicators in a geographic information system (GIS). This enabled the establishing of the positive or negative trajectory made toward achieving sustainable urban land use planning. The study demonstrates how the use of EO data, DCA, urban sustainability indicators and GIS can enhance local authorities' capacities for monitoring urban sustainability. EO data and urban sustainability indicators were used to develop an urban sustainability toolbox which facilitates evidence-based decision making. The results also show that urban sustainability indicators derived from EO are valuable in providing synoptic, up-to-date, standardised and normalised information on urban areas. Such information would be expensive and cumbersome to collect without the use of EO and GIS. As a result, earth observation will continue to play a key role in monitoring urban sustainability, particularly in developing countries.

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