By Michael Mdongwe (BSc. Regional Development Planning, Ardhi University) and Dr Jessica Thorn (PhD, MSc, BSocSci (Hons))
As a Research Coordinator for the Urban Ecolution project in Tanzania, I was given the opportunity to explore resident opinions and experiences in the peri-urban areas of Tanzania’s busiest city, Dar es Salaam. I had a special focus on Urban Green Infrastructure. Having grown up in Dar es Salaam, I have personally witnessed the rapid changes that have taken place in the city over the past two decades. In addition, as a resident of the city’s low-lying area of Kigogo which sits next the Msimbazi River valley, my family and I have sometimes encountered the challenges of floods and other climate-related hazards.
One of the main objectives of the research under the Urban Ecolution programme is to investigate household perceptions of water-related green infrastructure found in informal settlements around the Msimbazi and Kibangu rivers. In total the sample size was 500 households, and the fieldwork around these communities was conducted for five months, accounting for 7 sub wards, namely: Kigogo Mkwajuni, Kigogo Kati, Kigogo Mbuyuni, Msimbazi Bonde la Mchicha, Jangwani, Magomeni Suna and Kinondoni Hananasif. Within these wards, I especially focused on houses that were in low-lying and high land areas that regularly faced floods, to know how the green infrastructure around these structures is used, misused, neglected or conserved for the general social welfare of these communities.
Why study Dar es Salaam?
Dar es Salaam is a palm shaped city, characterized by a mono-centric urban administrative structure. Most informal settlements in Dar es Salaam have developed in low-lying areas along the Msimbazi River Valley, in areas such as Kigogo, Bonde la Mchicha, Jangwani, Magomeni suna and Hananasif. People settled here due to the lack of availability of social services, and high price of plots in planned areas. The river valley was thus the only option for some people. Informal settlements typically host low and middle-income families. They have formed a pattern of low-density and low-rise urbanization, mostly in one floor residential areas, contributing to sprawl and underutilization of the land (Lupala, 2002).
Climate change may increase flood incidences in the settlements found along the river valleys. Already, many people have seen their properties violently destroyed by more frequent flooding. This can be seen in areas like Kigogo ward at both Msimbazi and Kibangu river, Jangwani, Magomeni Suna, and Hananasif. The increase in temperature is also another challenge, which makes homes extremely hot during the dry season, especially when comparing to the previous years, where the temperature was tolerable.
Where can you find Urban Green Infrastructure in Dar es Salaam?
Urban Green Infrastructure can be found in various locations in Dar es Salaam, but most occur in areas where there is the flow of water bodies. For instance, along rivers like Msimbazi and Kibangu, next to natural drainage and runoff pathways and even near the ocean. There is a part of Kinondoni Hanansif near the coast of the Indian Ocean where you can find mangrove trees growing freely, as the government has warned people to build their houses away from the 60m buffer zone. In addition, there remains open spaces protected by communities and local government (or Mtaa) offices. This protection is necessary, because here in the city, we have seen some green spaces being converted to garages and parking lots. There has been resistance to this happening in Jangwani.
Benefits and ecosystem services of Urban Green Infrastructure in Dar es Salaam
Green spaces in Dar es Salaam benefit people living both near and far from these areas. People often use these spaces for exercise. In addition, some of the green fertile areas found near the riverbanks, like that of Msimbazi Bonde la Mchicha and Sukita are used for vegetable cultivation, which provides food and income/employment to the local residents. These spaces, like that of Target and Pipo football grounds, are also used for social and political events, like wedding ceremonies, political meetings and religious events. In addition, some of the less hazardous open spaces, found within larger flood prone areas or informal settlements, are used as assembling points during disasters, for instance, during floods people use these spaces to shelter for a few days after flood water moves out of their houses.
Residents living around these spaces have always depended on them for various activities. However, the activity itself differs from one area to another, depending on the size of the space. For example, at Kigogo Mkwajuni near Kibangu River, most people collect bamboo trees for small construction and repair jobs. However, the situation is different near the Msimbazi River, where the space is larger with tall grasses and coconut trees. Here, farmers use the river water to irrigate and cultivate vegetables. Unfortunately, many farmers are anxious about this practice, as they are aware of the high levels of pollution in the water. Further down in Hananasif and Magomeni Suna, the space is larger due to the demolition houses in the area (as a flood risk mitigation), which has allowed plants to grow. Residents harvest sugarcane here, along with grasses to feed their domestic cattle. The green space here cleans and detoxifies the atmosphere around the communities, while providing some clear breathing space for relaxation.
Most of the residents in the raised areas of Kigogo ward and Hananasif belief that since the houses in the low-lying areas near Msimbazi River have been demolished and shifted to Mabwepande, their own surroundings have cleaner air. The riverbank area provides them with raw materials for making brooms and the bamboo trees provide materials for construction.
Challenges and barriers to the maintenance of Urban Green Infrastructure in Dar es Salaam
There are many problems facing Urban Green Infrastructure spaces in Dar es Salaam, with much of the maintenance responsibility falling on local government and municipalities.
One of the biggest issues stems from the economic interest of non-residents or investors who wish to establish buildings on the land. This discourse is being observed in Kigogo Kati, especially around the Pipo football grounds. Changes in UGI land use by municipalities is also an issue for residents, who use these spaces for various activities. For instance, the area that was used as a football ground at Kigogo Mkwajuni has now been allocated to become a private school. This is a constant challenge with the growing population and land scarcity, particularly in areas in the city which are close to work opportunities.
Another issue revolves around property boundaries, and misunderstandings in terms of where these boundaries lie. When green spaces are adjacent to private plots, there can be encroachment into common spaces by private landowners.
Seasonally, spaces found in flood prone areas that are destroyed can remain neglected for months afterward as the damage to the area is so severe. These spaces become unsafe at night due to thieves and robbers who threaten people’s lives and property. In addition, the houses found close to the riverbanks throw garbage and domestic waste into these spaces, polluting the environment.
Another challenge in keeping UGI maintained in Dar es Salaam is caused by a lack of service delivery. The service delivery challenges in these areas are often dependent on topography. For example, low-lying areas face floods, which destroy the infrastructure like roads and clean water supply systems. This means that grey water and sewage sometimes flows into people’s homes during the flood season. This can be seen at Kigogo, Msimbazi Bonde la Mchicha, Jangwani, Magomeni Suna and Hananasif.
Another cross-cutting challenge is pollution caused by improper disposal of household waste. Although the municipalities have arranged vehicles to collect waste, the system has its flaws. Therefore, open dumping takes place along rivers and roads. In addition, a political motive is another challenge for the service delivery in these areas, as there is a disparity in service delivery when political leaders are selective and decide to only deliver services to those who support them.
The Msimbazi River Development Plan for the lower Basin of the Msimbazi River is a response to severe peaks of water flow that takes place from the upper catchment area to the ocean. A series of three interventions have been conceptualized, involving dredging of the river channel and additional widening and raising of key bridges. Elevated terraces will be created to guide the water and create higher edges to protect against flooding. The aim is to create space for the river, while reclaiming parts of the floodplain for the development of the proposed city park.
A way forward: integrating Urban Green Infrastructure into the Msimbazi River Development Plan.
The Msimbazi River Development Plan is critical for climate adaptation and the overall well-being of the settlements. The river serves as an important water source and the fertile flood plain provides prime land for agriculture and annual grazing. However, the Tanzanian government needs to ensure that residents who have been shifted to other locations to allow for the construction of the Msimbazi River Valley are adequately compensated. They should be provided with new plots in the planned areas to prevent the establishment of another informal settlement later down the line.
In addition, the Ministry of Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) should ensure that the Msimbazi River Development Plan achieves its stated goals by considering the efficient management of the natural environment. It is essential that the project benefits the people who live in the area, as having them on board will only help the project achieve its goals.
The plan should account for reducing the flood effects to the people or communities living along the river valley, creating a safer environment and adding to the resilience of the local people who live there. The project should improve the infrastructure and economic activities in the area by making employment opportunities available, whilst enhancing valuable green infrastructure.
The community should be properly consulted and provided with good information in terms of how to protect green infrastructure or establish new areas which had no green infrastructure. These communities, through their local organization, should make efforts to be included in every stage of the project implementation, keeping in mind gender inclusivity throughout the process.
Lupala J.M., (2002). Urban Types in Rapidly Urbanising Cities: A Typological Approach in the Analysis of Urban Types in Dar es Salaam. PhD Thesis, Department of Infrastructure, Division of Urban Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.
President’s office (2019). The Msimbazi opportunity: Transforming the Msimbazi Basin into a Beacon of Urban Resilience, 19 January 2019, Dar es Salaam. World Bank. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/842751555397752385/pdf/Executive-Summary.pdf
World Bank (2019) Transforming Tanzania’s Msimbazi River from a Liability into an Opportunity. Available online; https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/08/12/transforming-tanzanias-msimbazi-river-from-a-liability-into-an-opportunity