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FEATURE STORY October 15, 2018

Envisioning Urban Resilience for Tanzania


  • Recent flooding in Dar es Salaam reportedly killed 15 people, destroyed critical roads and infrastructure, and paralyzed the city
  • More than three million people live in informal settlements near the city’s river basin making themselves and the city more susceptible to flooding
  • The Tanzanian government, along with the World Bank and development partners, are working with local communities to help design a more resilient basin

DAR ES SALAAM, October 15, 2018 – Earlier this year, a state of emergency was declared for Tanzania’s largest city as heavy rains inundated urban roads, destroying critical infrastructure, paralyzing the urban hub, and resulting in 15 reported deaths. Many of the deaths occurred in Jangwani, an unplanned neighborhood near the city center that straddles the Msimbazi river.

“The water is endangering our lives,” said Habiba Mondoma, who lives in Jangwani. “There’s a lot of contamination and many people get sick as result. The flooding also affects our children’s studies as their books, clothes, and mattresses get spoiled. It is making it harder, especially for women, to look after their families.”

Habiba is one of more than three million people who reside in informal communities such as Jangwani despite their vulnerable locations, increasing their exposure to flood risk. The expansion of these communities can be attributed to a lack of affordable housing with access to services and economic activities, resulting largely from rapid urbanization and unplanned development.

“We have been experiencing increased human activity upstream in the Msimbazi,” said Nyariri Nanai, an engineer within the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG). “These activities contribute to erosion, causing sedimentation, leading to flooding downstream.”

To address this challenge, PO-RALG, in partnership with the World Bank, have been championing the Msimbazi Charrette initiative, an urban design process that draws on the views and experiences of various stakeholders who foresee a more resilient basin.

“The Tanzania Urban Resilience Program has created this platform where all these stakeholders come and design together,” said Mussa Natty, and engineer and former Municipal Director and Urban Development Specialist. “This also makes decision-making easier.”

The Msimbazi Charrette applied a team of local and international experts, who worked with engineers, planners, community leaders, and high-level government officials in a dedicated workshop.

“We didn’t want a top-down solution, so once the solution is there, it means it is agreed by all stakeholders, including the community who has really experienced the problems of flooding,” Nanai said. This led to the adoption of an ACCA approach—Awareness, Comprehension, Commitment, and Action—which aims to take the very complex challenge of flooding and come to mutually agreed, implementable solutions.

Now in its final stages, the initiative is expected to produce a framework to guide a basin investment program, and a detailed plan for the lower basin, including a city park, housing and commercial development. The initiative is also further building resilience by producing a flood model that can be used to design sustainable flood control infrastructure.

With a framework and other elements in place, the initiative aims to help catalyze investment from government, private sector, and development partners to restore the highly-vulnerable flood plain, and turn it into a city asset.  

“The Msimbazi Charrette has taught us that, together, through dedicated partnerships involving community members, the government and development partners, important steps towards taking action can be achieved, and targeted investments can be effectively defined to build a resilient and more livable city,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Somalia.

Beth Arthy, Head of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Tanzania praised the consultative nature of the process.

“We need to continue to build on the momentum of the Charrette and the positive habits of cooperation and collaboration that have been developed so far,” she said. “We need to make sure the voices we’ve heard remain front and center as we move from commitment to action.”

Habiba and other citizens who participated in the consultations are equally as optimistic.

“I can see the authorities are listening, because if they were not listening, we would not have reached this stage,” she said. “We are proud to be working together with government and stakeholders in this process.