Climate Change in Dar es Salaam

As more and more citizens migrate from rural areas, Tanzania’s urban centers are expanding rapidly. Already more than half the world’s population lives in cities, and the forecast according to the United Nations, is only said to rise to 66 percent by 2050, with close to 90 percent of the increase taking place in urban areas of Africa and Asia.[1] Urban and land use planning systems have not been able to keep pace with demand for growth, while preserving the city’s natural environment. An unexpected and unprepared increase in population in urban areas will bring enough problems on its own, but what about the impacts it has on the environment? Climate change is undeniably taking different shapes around the globe, and Dar es Salaam has no immunity from this. Home to more than 4.5 million people [2], the nation’s commercial capital and coastal city experiences climate change through the form of drought followed by over-due rainfall resulting in flooding. Due to Dar es Salaam’s geographical location, the city is located on what is considered to be flood plains, which has consistently been a struggle to battle. This susceptibility to flooding threatens the cities infrastructural assets, which according to the World Bank, is worth $5.3 billion. [3]

As spatial expansion spreads in Dar es Salaam, many informal settlements are located in hazardous areas that are not equipped with adequate storm drainage canals. This makes these areas increasingly vulnerable to heavy rainfall. These communities face obstacles such as insecure housing, lack of access to clean water, unhygienic sanitation & waste systems, and transportation constraints which are all amplified under heavy rainfall conditions which breed spreadable diseases.
It has been interesting to learn about Dar es Salaam and its specific relationship to climate change since our internship began. During our second month, we coincidentally experienced a flash flood that took place on Friday, October 27th. It was raining on and off for a couple days, and then consistently overnight into the following day. Wide eyed, we stood beneath the shelter of our home as the rain came down, down, down, and the water rose up, up and up into our garden. Out of curiosity, we ventured out of our home, through the calf-deep water, to peek outside the gate and see what had become of the main road. We were shocked to find that our usual view of the main street and walking paths, had been completely submerged with rain water. Everything was flooded and people were walking through water knee to waist deep. Finally, after a few hours had passed, the rain stopped, and like a plug being pulled from the base of a tub, so did the water begin to drain. It didn’t take long until water had filtered out and we could see the main road again, a lot muddier of course. We sat in our house, dry, unharmed, and thankful the water had drained, but ultimately had suffered none. Lazaro Mambosasa, the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, confirmed the death of four people on New China News, along with the destruction of 100 houses and submersion of 200 other houses as a result of the flash floods[4]. Our hearts were heavy, as we reflected on the coming and going of the flood waters and how this event had just devastated the lives for hundreds of people and altered the course of their livelihoods.

Though future rainfall patterns are unknown, the shifts in weather predictions and intensification of heavy rainfall, is expected. Unless adaptation measures are actualized, the effects of flooding in Dar es Salaam will only become increasingly severe. Additionally, due to the increase in annual mean temperatures, combined with fewer days of rain per year, the chances of droughts and prolonged dry seasons are extremely high. These climate changes have devastating impacts on agriculture in Tanzania, as well as the urban agriculture scene in Dar es Salaam. Climate warming will shorten the growing season, and reduce rainfall and water availability.

Currently, climate change is not an evenly dispersed phenomenon in which everyone around the globe experiences the devastations of…yet. Even as the rain storm waged, I was afraid and was unsure of the potential severity of the event, but ultimately it had costed me nothing.
This past summer, my BC home felt the heat as 1,215,748 hectors of land were burned down by wild fires across its beautiful Northern and Eastern landscapes. People watched the news closely as they updated us on areas that needed evacuation, or were being closed. There have been fires before this past season, however there were three ways in which the most recent was unique. First, the season recorded the the largest total area that was burnt in recorded history. Secondly, there was the largest number of total evacuees in a fire season and thirdly, for the largest single fire ever recorded in British Columbia.[5]

I recall an environmental sciences and climate change class that I took in school a couple years ago and the conversations that generated from our discussions. It was interesting to study a heated subject that many of my classmates and I, had no first-hand experiences with. We were removed from the devastating impacts of climate change at that point. This past summer, as the fires spread, and burned the homes of many, the words of global warming were found more frequently on the tips of people’s tongues. It’s often not until a disaster hits close to home that we really begin to care for it. The ‘distant’ concept of climate change dissipates as the effects threaten what’s precious to you. The perception and knowledge of climate change is a powerful thing, and can be the reason why more people aren’t taking steps in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint.

In 2008, the co-director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University, Sammy Zahran, conducted a study that searched for the reasons that motivate local officials to reduce their carbon emissions, even if they think their benefits of such reduction would be low. His team found that “cities in regions that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but that emit the least greenhouse gases are most likely to act to reduce their carbon emissions.” While, “cities in less vulnerable areas with sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases are significantly less likely to agree to take mitigation action.” [6] This study highlights the problem with the perception of climate change and how individuals feel the burden is disproportionate. Furthermore, Zahran found that people were often more likely to support costly climate change policies in which they felt global warming was a real threat to their well-beings.
Realizing our world is changing as a result of climate change is not enough; there needs to be more movement. The privilege of being unaffected by climate change needs to be realized and not considered a pardon. We are continuing to become an increasingly interconnected globe through the exchange of goods, services, information, and travel. The idea of “not in my backyard” needs to be flushed down the drain because climate change knows no boundaries. The trade of ignorance for action must be exchanged because people around the world are facing the devastations of global warming. Without action, the war of climate change will rage on and soon, it will be your garden that it is swallowed up.

[1] “World’s population increasingly urban with more than half living in urban areas”. United Nations. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html (November 18, 2017).
[2] “United Nations Statistics Division”. UN Data. http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=POP&f=tableCode%3A240 (November 18, 2017)
[3] Makoye, Kizito. “Tanzania seeks to protect cities from climate threats with urban plan“. Thomson Reuters Foundation. https://reliefweb.int/report/united-republic-tanzania/tanzania-seeks-protect-cities-climate-threats-urban-plan (November 18,2017)
[4] “Death Toll Rises to 4 in Tanzania Heavy Rains”. New China. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/29/c_136713436.htm (November 21, 2017)
[5] “B.C. surpasses worst wildfire season on record – and threat is far from over”. CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-surpasses-worst-wildfire-season-on-record-and-threat-is-far-from-over-1.4249435  (November 21, 2017)
[6] Cooney, Catherine. “The Perception factor: Climate Change gets personal”. Environmental Health Perspectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2974720/ (November 21, 2017)

One thought on “Climate Change in Dar es Salaam

  1. Cheryl Foreman says:

    Gemma, Geog 364 -Climate Change and International Dev is full -but room for you if you want to take it even if time conflict!

    Like

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