Rains wreak havoc in Dar es Salaam

It is noon and the heavens break loose. While some cheer for the seething breeze that accompanies the rain, some just curse it.

Frederick Lema, a veteran commuter bus driver, grows animated as raindrops start falling. He knows the day is over and as a breadwinner he anticipates more trouble at home.

It has been a season of rain in Tanzania’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam, home to four million people. The rainy season started in February and ran ‘til early May.

For Lema, who is always on the road, the rains wreak havoc on his life, causing traffic jams and slowing down trade to the point where he cannot make enough money to provide for his three-member family.

Lema blames his woes on the city’s poor drainage systems.

“Had the government planned the city well from the very beginning we would not have been going through such pain,” said a visibly upset Lema. “There are poor drainage systems all over the town, which makes us spend many hours in traffic jams.”

It is a nightmare moving from one point to another in Dar es Salaam with many city areas still water soaked due to poor drainage systems.

The rains claimed lots of residents’ lives in the city’s suburbs, but they also brought activities to a standstill in the central business district.

Lema, who has been plying the Mbezi-City centre route for the past five years, points out that the rainy season also increases the number of accidents.

“You know, when it rains heavily our vision is slightly obscured and plus the huge pools of water on the road, we end [up] causing silly accidents,” he said.

About 80 percent of the city’s residents live in settlements that are not surveyed and these are the areas that suffer most when it rains heavily.








Homes surrounded by water in in Dar es Salaam. FLORENCE MUGARULA.

A need for infrastructure upgrades

The ongoing downpours in Dar es Salaam over the past three months has proved beyond doubt that the government needs to do more to improve the city’s drainage systems.

The Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mecky Sadick admitted to urbanafrica that the three-month downpours claimed over 40 lives, with the reason being blockage of the drainage systems.

“It is not a good story to narrate, but it [is] all due to outdated drainage systems,” said the commissioner. “We are now working to make Dar es Salaam a modern city with proper drainage systems.”

Sadick disclosed that the city was looking forward to spending $13.1 million to repair damaged infrastructure such as roads, bridges and drainage systems.

“Dar es Salaam as a country’s top business city has been facing various challenges. The government is doing everything to ensure there is reliable infrastructure to support both social and economic activities,” he said.

Rains cause transport disruptions

The main bridges that connect Dar es Salaam to other regions have been damaged and the government is working hard to reconnect the city with other regions, explained Sadick.

The affected bridges include Ruvu bridge on River Ruvu (along the Morogoro-Dar es Salaam Highway), Mpiji bridge on Mpiji River (along Bagamoyo – Dar es Salaam) as well as Mzinga bridge along Kilwa Road (which connects Dar es Salaam with the southern regions).

For some days, passengers to upcountry regions were stranded in the city, while others were being forced to cross the damaged bridges on foot and look for transport to their destination on the other side.







Passengers crossing Kizinga River on foot at Mbagala after rain damaged the bridge. EMMANUEL HERMAN.

Within the city, many bridges that connect streets and districts were swept away, which forced Dar residents to spend over four hours in traffic jams.

Kuruthum Mnzava, a traffic police officer at Morocco-Mwai Kibaki junction, admitted that traffic jams are due to poor drainage systems, adding that they make the traffic police’s job difficult.

“Because of poor infrastructure, [drivers] drive slowly, and as you can see many of the traffic lights depend on electricity from the national grid, which is not reliable,” said Mnzava. “So when it rains power goes off and then transport becomes a big problem.”








Homes surrounded by water in in Dar es Salaam. FLORENCE MUGARULA.

Measures to fix the problem

Dar es Salaam, which has three districts — Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni — is doing its best to improve infrastructure.

Ilala district, which houses the city centre, has allocated $3.1 million to repair the damaged infrastructure in various areas of city.

The Ilala district council’s public relations officer, Tabu Shaibu said her office was looking forward to using the funds for reconstruction of damaged roads, bridges and improved drainage systems.

Money will also go to improved rubbish collection in the city, which depends on one big dumpsite known as Pugu Kinyamwezi, located in Ilala district.

Government is also doing land surveys.


Florence Mugarula is a reporter 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 also attended a sub-editing training course for six months at Nation Media Group (NMG) in Nairobi, Kenya.He can be contacted at [email protected]


For more on Dar es Salaam:

Commuter trains ease traffic in Dar

Government moves to make bodabodas safer in Dar

End in sight for Dar es Salaam’s traffic woes

Head image: citizens move a vehicle trapped in water following the ongoing rains in Dar es Salaam. JAMES RUTTA.



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