As is the case in many poor urban neighborhoods across the world, Jangwani valley in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania has her tales of filth, open sewers, broken water pipes, dangerously connected electricity and disasters that recur time and again, when forces of nature, like heavy rains, meet the ever growing population in their vulnerabilities: poor and living in shacks in flood-condemned lands.
The ending of the River Msimbazi as it winds up a journey of over 100 Kilometres from the highlands of Kisarawe into the Indian Ocean at Dar es Salaam, is a valley that was once a recreational park, today a settlement of over two hundred thousand people: Jangwani.
Dar es Salaam is East Africa’s biggest city with a population of over 4 million and with a population growth rate averaging 4% every year. As more people migrate into the city in search of opportunities to better their lives, they are met with the harsh economic realities of urban living and end up in neighbourhoods like Jangwani; unplanned, hazardous and lacking in critical social services. These are challenges which have advanced over the years as the population increases and with it, demand for housing for the poor.
Eng. Musa Natty, former Municipal Director for Kinondoni Municipal Council within Dar es Salaam city, was already working for the local government when settlement begun. “People in these neighbourhoods have built right in the waterways, hindering flow and percolation of water; that means we have much more run-off water hence more flooding. And because of climate change, rains are more intense, that added to the increasing population is disaster.” He said on the sidelines of the Understanding Risk in Tanzania – URTZ – conference 2018 (30 – 31st August).
The floods have recurred for years, killing tens, even hundreds of people, destroying property and interrupting business operations in the entire central business district of Dar es Salaam. But a Programme spearheaded by the World Bank Tanzania in collaboration with the Government and British development agency DIFD is promising to permanently end the city’s flooding woes.
“Tumepata nafuu tayari sababu tumehusishwa kama jamii. Kitambo tulikuwa twafurushwa tu, hata sehemu ile ikaitwa bomoa bomoa. Tulikuwa twaamka mara tractor ziko mlangoni zafanya ubomozi, lakini kwa sasa hata sisi tumejumuika na serikali na wadau katika kutafuta suluhu za kudumu…ushirikiano wa pembe tatu: serikali, wadau na wananchi.” – “We feel relieved already because we have been involved as a community. Back then we would just be evicted, we even named this place, bomoa bomoa (regularly demolished). We would wake up and find tractors (excavators) going on with demolitions, but today we have also been enjoined with the government and other stakeholders in finding lasting solutions. A tripartite partnership of government, stakeholders and the community.” Said Habiba Mwonduma, a community representative in Jangwani.
The Msimbazi Charrette Urban design framework is a comprehensive multi-stakeholder project that aims to come up with novel solutions and approaches to make Dar es Salaam resilient to the effects of a changing climate including floods. Consultations, acquisition of critical data and creation of strategic partnerships took place over a period of seven months, with exhaustive engagement of all stakeholders and culminating in the Understanding Risk in Tanzania conference in which findings, plans and a roadmap was presented in the presence of representatives of all key stakeholders.
The new Jangwani valley as envisioned by the project is a people’s park with a thriving natural environment and a raised solid foundation for development of housing units and business spaces. A key win for the local community which suffered loss of livelihood in the form of their small businesses each time they were evicted from the populated urban area. And a win still for the ecosystem which will not only be kept clean but also in a state in which it can serve its natural role in regulating water levels.
The project will now move into the next phase of resource allocation and implementation but as Eng. Musa Natty puts it, the burden is already off their shoulders just by the fact that the communities involved have bought into it. Now and when fully implemented, the Msimbazi Charrette Urban design framework presents an example to be emulated by African cities faced with similar problems and cities world over.