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When will Dar be saved?

25th December 2011
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Editorial Cartoon

The heavy rainfall that hit Dar es Salaam this week exposed our failed system, as well as the frailty of the infrastructure of the home to nearly 5 million people city, including the head of State, President Jakaya Kikwete.

We have said it so many times that Dar es Salaam needed more than the party’s slogan to make it inhabitable and our safe economic hub.

We went ahead and suggested that there should be a special metropolitan ministry to spearhead Dar es Salaam as well as major cities like Mwanza and Arusha, where urbanisation is growing rapidly.

We gave examples of our Kenyan counterparts who have managed to change Nairobi within four years, from a dilapidated city to a newly modernised city, thanks to the effective measures taken by President Mwai Kibaki’s regime after the 2007 disputed election.

But, our advice either fell into deaf ear or was simply ignored by planners and policy makers. Today, ‘God has just beeped Dar es Salaam’, and the entire city is in a state of breakdown and power blackouts, leaving 5 million people at the crossroads ahead of Christmas festival.

While some people may think that Dar es Salaam has flooded because of heavy rainfall, the bitter truth is that the deadly floods have been caused by dilapidated infrastructure and unplanned human settlements.

The amount of rainfall that hit Dar in the first day, this week, though accompanied by strong winds, was able to flood the city not only because of its enormity, but due to the brittle infrastructure and unplanned human settlements.

What we are witnessing today is proof of a failed system and a corrupt governance structure that has totally failed to have a proper planning on how the people should reside, work and move around the city and its environs.

For years those tasked with responsibilities of ensuring that we are safe in our homes, workplaces and roads failed to foresee the coming danger even when they were given a warning by a weatherman in September, this year, about the looming floods.

For instance those who have been driving on the old Bagamoyo Road know that the Mlalakua Bridge was a temporary measure taken by the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces to help solve the problem that arose many years ago.

But, surprisingly, neither Tanzania Roads Agency, nor the Kinondoni Municipal Council took effective measures to build a permanent bridge in that area. Those tasked with responsibilities were busy grabbing corrupt deals, forgetting that the bridge built by the TPDF was just for temporary use.

To prove the wickedness of those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing safety of our roads, the Mlalakua Bridge despite being very important in connecting Dar city centre and its environs, was taken for granted for many years until God almighty ‘beeped’ Dar, this week.

What does this mean? One, it means that there’s no a functioning City Council or Road agency in this case, and therefore there’s no justification for paying these crooks hefty salaries every month. Secondly, it means that we depend on a failed system to protect us but the reality is that the failed system is itself a killer that kills us anytime when nature strike. Thirdly, it means that Dar es Salaam as a city is an orphan that lost all the parents some years ago, and it survives on handouts.

Are we not aware that only 30 percent of Dar’s houses are connected to the sewage system? But, what have we done to solve the problem during the past decade? Nothing except busy with cheap succession politics of who should succeed Kikwete in 2015 or should be kicked outside the party before the 2015 election.

Are we not aware that half of Dar’s houses are squatters, a problem that has existed for decades now as planners and policy makers as well as politicians chose the Ostrich’s style, burying their heads in the sands.

Our engineers and planners have gone bankruptcy or have simply allowed politicians to overtake them in doing their job. Today, we are paying the price.

How often do we test or inspect our bridges especially when the weatherman has warned us in advance about the looming floods? The answer is very simple, we don’t do that and we spend much of our time either visiting our private projects or cohabitating, gossiping and swallowing lots of beers.

Just imagine the President and Prime Minister defending invaders who have invaded the road’s reserves. The Minister for works made it clear that all those who invaded road’s reserves should demolish their structures or else the government would destroy them at their costs.

However to our surprise, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda faulted the Minister’s order, before the President also publicly criticising the demolition, saying it lacked ‘human face’.

In a situation where our top leaders defend invaders, it’s palpable that something is wrong within the governing system. Those who built their houses at the deadly Jangwani Valley did so because there’s no a clear functioning system. If there was a functioning system, it would have been impossible to erect structures at the valley, and go ahead with living, until the time when mother nature decided to strike.

Jangwani residents are victims of a corruption within the land ministry, where corruption allows one individual to have 20 surveyed plots in different names while thousands of Tanzanians don’t have even a single surveyed plot. In return, these people, who can’t afford the high cost of surveyed land due to dilly-dallying at the Ministry of Lands, Housing, decide to invade any open space even if it’s their graveyards, but to them what matters is living today, tomorrow will adjust itself.

All of our public beaches have been grabbed by the so called hotel developers and nobody cares because the system is either sick or it has become corrupt to the extent that it can’t make any serious decisions anymore.

Today, the governing system can’t accommodate the growing urban dwellers. Our investment in infrastructure including water and electricity doesn’t match with the actual demand on the grounds.

These are things we were supposed to see fifty years ago, and start planning for the future, but unfortunately, we either ignored our planners or planned to fail in future. Failure to plan for the future means planning to fail in future.

Above all, the weatherman warned about the looming floods in September, and we expected the government to take all precautionary measures, but nothing was done. The disasters control and management is under the office of the Prime Minister, but it is not clear whether those tasked took any precautionary measures after the weatherman issued the gloomy forecast.

We, at The Guardian on Sunday, would like to urge the President and his team to give us a safer, cleaner and inhabitable Dar es Salaam at any cost. We repeat our last week’s call to the President by saying, it’s time to clean and rebuild Dar es Salaam for the better future.

Today we are mourning nearly 40 of our beloved ones, one day should we fail to clean and rebuild Dar es Salaam, we shall mourn thousands if not millions. From traffic jam to dilapidated infrastructure, unplanned human settlement to stinking homes, Dar es Salaam is crying for a ‘rescue package’ and it is high time the President took boldness measures which may include disbanding the Dar City Council and replace it with a Special Commission or form a special metropolitan ministry to save this city from the brink of total collapse.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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