Snapshots from Dar es Salaam

Flood impact and urban adaptation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

A young man using pieces of wood as walking aids while crossing a current of rainwater, sewage and garbage in the district of Janguani during the flood event of April 12, 2014

A young man using pieces of wood as walking aids while crossing a current of rainwater, sewage and garbage in the district of Janguani during the flood event of April 12, 2014

As part of an on-going Action Research project involving the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig Germany, I was commissioned to shoot video interviews with key stakeholders and experts in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, as well as to document the flood problems through still photography.

The research project investigates the capacity of local authorities to consider climate adaptation in their local budget and seeks to empower them to integrate adaptation measures in their development activities. The field work in Dar es Salaam was conducted in partnership with the Kinondoni Municipal Council and Ardhi University.

The trip to Tanzania was planned during the rainy season (March-May), a time when the Dar es Salaam region is particularly at risk of flooding. The idea was to capture potential damage associated with increasing floods as well as to showcase existing solutions and adaptation actions that occur in the city.

Dar es Salaam is a coastal city on the Indian Ocean. The city is undergoing noticeable changes in its urbanization trends and the flow of inland migration. All experts interviewed coincide that the rate of population growth exceeds the rate of provision of basic services. This poses an enormous challenge for city authorities, who have to deal simultaneously with making the city livable and hazard-free.

The communities most exposed to flood risks are those located in the lowlands near rivers. Our photos show however that flood exposure does not only depend on location but also on the quality of the settlements and the resilience of the urban infrastructure (e.g. good roads, elevated pit latrines, existence of storm water drainage and effective waste management).

On 11th and 12th April, 2014, the Dar es Salaam Region experienced heavy rainfall which caused floods to many areas within the city. More than 20 deaths were reported the majority of them in the Kinondoni Municipality. We conducted a transect visit on the 12th of April and documented severe damages to road, bridges and drainage infrastructure. One of the most significant damages was the collapse of a bridge connecting Dar es Salaam to the northern region (Bagamoyo City). This event had enormous impact on the mobility of thousands of dwellers for several days. Many roads were completely submerged under water currents making access impossible to homes, schools and workplaces. Since many drivers avoided unsealed roads, paved roads were heavily congested. Overall, the various suburbs were either inaccessible because of the damage, or the mobility had been severely compromised. Local newspapers (The Citizen, Sunday News and Daily News) reported the flood as one of the most destructive events Dar es Salaam has experienced in years due to the scale of the damage to both public infrastructure and private property.

Given past experiences of flooding, it is not surprising that residents are watchful and remain alert during each heavy rainfall. In the two weeks of the photo and video shooting, we witnessed how people took shelter, meetings were canceled, traffic jams increased and mobility in general was slowed down until the rain passed.

In residential areas, the multiple ways in which residents cope are particularly visible. These include raising buildings, pumping water out of their properties, improvising pathways and relocating temporarily. Similarly, other larger scale adaptation measures are envisioned or in the process of being implemented in the city.

At present, there is a major surveying initiative that will allow residents of high-risk areas to have access to land in flood free zones. Ongoing constructions of storm water drainage and the cleaning of riverbeds are actions taken prior or during the rainy season to mitigate the negative impact of flooding.

We were able to collect interesting video testimonials from city officials, academics and other experts, community leaders and citizens on the topic of seasonal flooding and their vision for Dar es Salaam.

For more information on the action Research Project “Multi Criteria Analysis application to respond to flooding at a community level (MCA-Dar)” please contact Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste (

Dr. Nathalie Jean Baptise will be speaking at Resilient Cities 2014: Session C2 on Global Examples for researcher-practitioner collaboration 9:00 to 10:30 on Friday, 30 May




2014-04-19-0606_DSCN3238  By Eric Schaechter (Photographer and visual effects artist)

  Winner Resilient Cities 2014 Photo Contest