Dar needs to deal with unplanned settlements

Living in Dar es Salaam for some can best be described as the struggle of living in unplanned settlements where road networks and drainage systems leave a lot to be desired. But residents can see some light at the end of the tunnel as the government plans to implement the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Project (DMDP), which aims to give Tanzania’s largest city a major facelift.

The city has had no master plan in place since 1979. And the DMDP, which includes plans for upgrading infrastructure, improving settlements and guaranteeing proper land use, should go some way in making the city more habitable.

Tanzania unveiled the plan in February when it met with Uganda, Kenya, Sweden, South Africa, Sudan, Somalia and France to discuss issues pertaining to population rise in cities, economics, waste management and climate change in the coming 30 to 50 years.

 A growing urban population

Dares Salaam is home to 4.4 million people, making it the most populous region out of the country’s 30 regions. The city’s population growth stands at eight percent annually. And thousands of people migrate every day from rural areas and other towns to Dar es Salaam in search of work opportunities.

An average of 10,000 people arrive in the city daily and between 400 and 650 buses travel to and from upcountry regions on a daily basis, according to statistics obtained at Ubungo bus terminal, which accommodates upcountry buses. The influx is perturbing considering that a World Bank study shows that over 70 percent of Dar es Salaam’s residents live in informal and unplanned settlements, while half of them survive on roughly a dollar a day.

David Mwombeki, a resident of Manzese, one of the city’s highly populated unplanned settlements, said many people opt to live on non-surveyed plots (which are bought from individuals and sold without government title deeds) because there is no clear plan or guidelines for them to build houses.

“I bought a non-surveyed plot and soon I started building a two-room house to accommodate my small family; I have so far lived here for 15 years and a lot of people have also built their houses,” he said. “It is an unplanned settlement and the government is mum on issues of surveying.”

Abdul Athuman, a resident of Vingunguti, a part of the city where there are also unplanned settlements, said surveyed plots were few and expensive. He believes such areas were prepared for the rich and government officials who could easily get loans from financial institutions.

“Those who live in surveyed areas have strong financial muscles,” he said. “For a person like me who works in the abattoir, it is just a dream to own a house in areas like Masaki, Oysterbay or Sinza.”

Congested houses at Buguruni area in Dar es Salaam. Florence Mugarula.

 The rise of unplanned settlements

Ilala Municipal Mayor, Jerry Slaa said the number of people living in unplanned settlements has been increasing in Dar es Salaam because the city master plan expired in 1979. He said failure to come up with a new masterplan and rapid population growth are the major causes for the increase. In February 2013, the government through its principal town planner secretary, Tommy Kapinga, presented the 2012/32 master plan’s first draft to stakeholders and assured the public that the final draft would be released in one month. But so far the draft has not been unveiled.

Some experts who spoke to Urban Africa said the mushrooming of unplanned settlements in the city was a result of the government’s hesitance in taking apt measures at the right time. Jovitus Jovin, a graduate in Urban and Regional Planning from the Ardhi University, said the government has failed in setting long-term plans for limiting the growth of unplanned settlements despite being aware of the problem for many years.

“The government should have addressed this problem long ago, but poor planning and politics on serious issues have landed us here,” he said. “Demolishing someone’s house means the beginning of protracted legal battles.”

The City Mayor, Didas Masaburi said poor knowledge on town planning, few planning experts and lack of funds to implement land survey projects were among the causes of the issue. He said that plans are underway to improve the situation. In July 2013, the World Bank provided credit worth $75 million through the International Development Association to improve the city’s infrastructure starting with the 2014/15 financial year.

According to Masaburi, the government has already started to work on the matter in some areas such as Vingunguti. He added that the government is confident that the DMDP will help modernize the city. He said the project will be supervised by three district councils — Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni.

Private companies and financial institutions are also currently working together with the government in surveying land and offering plots to citizens on loans and the National Housing Corporation (NHC) is also building modern houses, which are later sold to the citizens on loan.


Florence Mugarula is an editor for the The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ-Hons) from the University of Dar es Salaam. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam. He can be contacted at mugarula2004@gmail.com.

Main image: Houses at Manzese area in Dar es Salaam. The area is always affected by floods due to poor drainage systems and continuous construction of houses in unsurveyed areas. Florence Mugarula.



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