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Durham University

ESRC Impact Acceleration Account

Sinkhole Collapse

‘Practitioner and researcher training on the analytical skills required to predict sinkhole collapse in South Africa and develop a risk mitigation strategy with stakeholders and policymakers’

The Problem

Sinkhole collapse is a major problem in South Africa. Since 1960s, South Africa has experienced more than 2,600 documented sinkholes. They have been responsible for more than three-dozen deaths and at least $130M damage. In 2010, the authorities had relocated about 3,000 families after huge sinkholes appeared close to their homes near Babsfontein. This relocation order had led to serious social unrest. In this project, researchers from Durham and Pretoria Universities will work with practitioners and policy- makers to develop a mitigation strategy against this risk.

Aims and Objectives

1. Provide training for young researchers on the analytical and numerical skills required to predict sinkhole collapse

2. Engage with policy-makers to develop a mitigation strategy

The ESRC/GCRF grant was used to support two activates:

1. A three-days training course for researchers and practitioners on the analytical skills required to predict sinkhole collapse (computational tools, limit analysis method and stochastic methods).

2. A one-day workshop targeting stakeholders and policymakers to disseminate research findings on sinkhole collapse and to simulate debate and open discussion on mitigation strategies

Societal Impact

This project responds directly to the serious hazard of sinkhole collapse in South Africa and involved strong engagement with South African policymakers and researchers. It’s aim was to provide guidelines for a risk mitigation strategy on dolomite land; which is a key target in South Africa, and this strategy will help the poorest people in the country as they are often forced to live on land deemed not suitable for development due to the sinkhole risk which could result in damage to properties and the loss of life.

For more information, please contact Dr Ashraf Osman ashraf.osman@durham.ac.uk

Project Partners