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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
South Africa readies for Earth Summit

As Johannesburg gears up for the world summit on sustainable development, not all of its citizens are looking forward to the estimated influx of 40 000 visitors ranging from anti-globalisation protestors to heads of state.


Johannesburg's seasoned citizens are hiring out their houses and going on holiday for 10 days

For months now the roads in and out of the summit's epicentre at Sandton City have been in traffic gridlock.

"A sign of things to come," sighed a friend of mine wearily.

It used to take her five minutes to get to work.

These days it takes her at least an hour.

It is because all of the roads are being widened and upgraded to cater for the cavalcades of cars carrying dignatories, delegates, popstars and heads of state to and from the summit.

Water and sewerage systems have also had to be upgraded to cope with the extra volume.

Accommodation is already at a premium with some local hotels cashing in on the demand by trebling their rates.

Clean up

There are other sides to the summit though.

Forest, BBC
The summit will discuss how to stop rainforests being destroyed

A renewed effort is being made to present the clean face of Johannesburg.

Trees are being planted, the streets sweeped and a campaign sponsored by a national supermarket chain has volunteers combing river courses collecting debris.

Prostitutes and street traders are also being moved to make way for summit-goers.

Just like a school expecting a visit from the inspectors, Johannesburg does not want to be found lacking as it prepares to host the biggest ever summit of its kind in Africa.

And President Thabo Mbeki has asked South Africans to extend a warm welcome to its' visitors.

Activists

But, as always in South Africa, security is paramount, and illegal protestors are likely to encounter a chilly reception from the legions of police and soldiers who are being drafted in to man the roadblocks and monitor crime for the duration of the meeting.

Activists from the landless peoples movement, to anti-globalisation protestors and environmental pressure groups will be joining forces to mount one of the biggest demonstrations seen in South Africa on 31 August.

One local activist described the summit as a gathering of the hypocrites and exploiters, and vowed that protestors would "take Sandton" as he put it.

It's not only the protestors the police have to worry about.

Forty thousand people who don't know their way around town present rich pickings for South Africa's criminals who are doubtless rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of so many potential victims.

It's one reason why the police have had their leave cancelled for the duration of the summit, and why Johannesburg's seasoned citizens are hiring out their houses and going on holiday for 10 days.


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See also:

06 Aug 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
15 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
04 Jan 02 | Americas
13 Jun 02 | In Depth
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