The role of urban and environmental parameters in sustainable development and future growth of small towns : Parys - a case study
Small towns in South Africa play a vital role as support and service centres for rural development. Current discussions on sustainable development relate to the dynamicism of small towns. Existing literature on sustainable development accentuates that the majority of sustainability problems and sollutions linked to sustainable development originate at local levels. Local governments of small towns interact very closely with residents, and play an important role in promoting sustainability. Many small towns struggle with environmental management and experience development challenges. The small town of Parys in the Free State was chosen as the focus of this study. Parys is known for its location and characteristics as a tourist destination and important service centre for rural areas and surrounding towns. Parys has several urban environmental management issues which can limit future growth and development. This study will evaluate the growth of Parys, and the town will be evaluated in terms of sustainability. A case study approach was adopted to investigate the current state of sustainability in Parys. The perceptions and concerns of business owners and stakeholders of their immediate urban and natural environment were determined using two semi structured questionnaires. An in-depth literature study was conducted to investigate sustainable development and determine the best suited sustainability indicators to be used in the surveys. Sustainability indicators derived from the Sustainable Cities International, 2012 were used during the sustainability evaluation. Data obtained was statistically analysed using IBM SPSS Software. The results obtained from the surveys and the sustainability evaluation of Parys, were used to identify main problem areas. The results indicated that Parys is currently unsustainable with various urban and environmental issues. Recommendations were then formulated to improve the current situation. An integrated sustainability data base with the necessary parameters for each sustainability indicator is needed and could assist the NLM and other local municipalities in South Africa to determine their state of sustainability. This study will also set the stage for follow up studies and evaluations of other small towns using sustainability indicators.