Dar es Salaam. When Mr Juma Muhidini, 55, built his house at Mabibo Relini 20 years ago, Ng’ombe River was 50 meters away from his new home.
By then, he couldn’t have imagined that today the river bank would have extended to come just five meters from the wall of his house.
For the past decades, flooding has significantly impacted Dar es Salaam residents living in lowland areas.
Climate change has already led to increased temperatures and rising sea levels in Tanzania and that floods will always hit the city residents, says the Tanzania Country Environmental Assessment Report(2019) compiled by World Bank.
The report says that without major investments in adaptation, an annual average of 800,000 Tanzanians stand to be impacted by flooding caused by rising sea levels in future.
Mr Muhidini is now risking losing not only his home as a result of river-erosion caused by the heavy rains that wreaked havoc in many parts of Dar es Salaam and across the country, but also losing his land valued at Sh6 million by the year 2000.
“This river keeps on expanding towards my house. It was 40 to 50 meters away when I was building this house in 2000. Now the river banks are coming close to my house. This means I will soon lose it and my life and family are also at risk,” says Mr Muhidini as he figure out to leave the area he has been calling home for many years.
“We all know that we are prone to floods, but for sure it’s not our ignorance rather the government should have also tried to control expansion of rivers which are now swallowing out properties,” he said.
Mr Muhidini, a father of four, says during the recent downpour at least two or three residential houses belonging to his neighbours were swept away by floods, forcing the owners to vacate from the city to Morogoro Region.
“It’s not because they were closer to the river bank, but just because the river channel kept on widening until it reached their houses.
Like me, they were doing businesses to earn a bread in one of the swept houses, but they could not get any help after the river broke into their homes.
“I think the government should adapt measures to mitigate this risk. Businesses and people around here will not exist in the next 20 years if this threat is not addressed as a matter of urgency,” he says.
“Twenty years ago the river was far away. Due to unpredictability of the changing climate, by 2040 this river will have scraped all the houses here and will be approaching Mandela road, if measures are not taken,” he said.
He says (showing by a hand) part of his house’s veranda that have already been swept away.
“I can’t afford to build a wall now because if I do, the river water will still find ways to get into my house, so the only way to chage things around is for the government to intervene and control the river banks,” he said.
Mr Muhidini is not alone in this misery. Mr Abdul Komba, 42, a resident Msimbazi areas close to the Msimbazi River is facing a similar challenge.
“The truth is that we have nothing to do rather than vacating this place. When it rains the river wreaks havoc here. The government wants us to stay 60 meters away but nothing is being done to stop the river from encroaching our lands,” says Mr Komba.
He says a part from the widening of river banks, there was also lack of flood barriers to control flood waters from reaching people’s homes.
Ms Margaret Juma a resident at Tabata-Kisiwani concurs with Mr Komba: “When these rivers/streams are flooded without barriers they cause havoc in our homes. This is what is happening to us every rainfall season. If it (the flood) finds you away from your home, all your properties will be swept away,” said Ms Margaret.
She calls on the authorities to find ways of mitigating the negative impact of the floods. “People continue to migrate in commercial city and they will need space for settlement,” he says.
What experts say
Experts have recommended that flood barriers be erected along the rivers for safety of people. “If the proper actions aren’t taken, the residents will always be in the risk of damaging infrastructures, but also losing their land to river erosion,” says Dr Adenatus Shiboka, a Dar es Salaam-based expert in urban planning.
“Flood walls designed to temporarily block floodwater or other waterway are essential to protecting the businesses and residents in the city,” he adds.
He says that the structures will allow communities in low-lying areas and informal settlements to live in peace.
“In this century, flood barriers should be a priority to protect homes from rising water levels. Due to the recent heavy rains in Dar es Salaam and other parts of the country, I think this is the way regional city planners should go,” he noted.
With support from the World Bank’s which resulted to the formation of Tanzania Urban Resilience Program that led to the drawing of Msimbazi Opportunity Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for transforming of the basin from a hazardous liability into a beacon of urban resilience.
According to the World Bank’s Tanzania Environmental Assessment, the Msimbazi Opportunity Plan envisages four strategies to redesign the Msimbazi Valley which involves mitigation, protection, transformation and governing of the area.
The strategies would focus on reducing the flood hazard and the people, properties and vital infrastructure that are exposed to the flood hazard.
The transformation will also involve conversion of the most flood-prone areas of the valley into a city park and redevelop surrounding neighbourhoods.
Under the plan, terraces will be elevated in the valley to guide water and create higher edges to protect against flooding.
The basic principle of the terraces is to use the material that becomes available from dredging for the formation of elevated terraces. The terraces will be constructed in phases and filled terrace sections will be protected against erosion immediately at the end of each construction phase,” says the report.
Efforts to have Dar es Salaam city authorities respond to the concern proved futile by the time we went to press yesterday.
The rural population is expected to grow by more than 80 per cent, which will intensify pressure on natural resources and existing cities will receive more migrants from rural areas.
Tanzania is highly vulnerable to climate change, and the report warns that impacts will be felt across the board and points out the impending need to build resilience across all sectors while promoting healthy natural systems that act as buffers against those impacts.