On Monday, Dar es Salaam was brought to its knees as heavy rains pounded it. The city of five million inhabitants was literally submerged.
Key roads were cut off. All came to a standstill. Life stopped. Jam. It was disastrous. Businesses incurred losses as water destroyed products. Thousands of man-hours were lost because workers got stuck in jams. Vehicles broke down. Millions of litres of fuel got lost in the jams.
Someone joked on Facebook that if Tanzania were to use the incident to promote tourism in Dar es Salaam, then thousands of tourists would flock in just to witness the submerging of the country’s largest city.
But, how did we get there? Dar es Salaam’s lowland features are known. Water streams are known and so are its wetlands. Flood prone areas are also known.
Would it be wrong to conclude that the disaster that the city went through was self-inflicted? That the problem of flush floods is largely man-made?
Think of this: thousands of tonnes of solid waste are not collected in time. Almost a half of these end up in the city’s river and stream channels as well as the few drainage systems. When rain water comes, it washes the solid waste down the streams. And, upon reaching narrow passages, the space is not enough for the waste to pass through, they in turn block it. This results in floods on the upstream side.
Negligence. Human factors. For sure such a situation is a product of carelessness. Some people tend to sleep on their job. Rain seasons are known. Shouldn’t those responsible prepare ahead of the season so that water would freely flow to its destination--the sea?
And, the city is known for its chronic water shortages. How come no infrastructure is put in place to harvest rain water? Do we want Mr Donald Trump to come and do it for us?
What is our tax being spent on if it is not being directed into making our cities, town and villages safe and habitable? How about town planning? What about those who have put up structures that block free water flowage, who gave them the permits?
Rebecca Solnit says in Wanderlust: A History of Walking “In great cities, spaces as well as places are designed and built: walking, witnessing, being in public, are as much part of the design and purpose as is being inside to eat, sleep, make shoes or love or music. The word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship -- around participation in public life.”
And, Israelmore Ayivor says in Dream Big! See Your Bigger Picture! “Where you are now is as a result of either your choice or someone’s choice. If you neglect the ideas of choosing the ultimate things for yourself, someone will hire you by choosing the average thing for you.”
There is the human factor in most of our problems. Change of mind-set is crucial.