By TONY ZAKARIA, 24th December 2011 @ 15:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 1343
Dar has just experienced the worst flooding in over five decades. A s if we needed a misfortune to dampen our spirits this December, right after we celebrated 50 years of independence from British colonial rule.
Movement around was crippled by damage to several key roads and some key bridges. I tried driving from Mbezi Beach to Kawe on the Thursday after the big one, but traffic was so bad I only managed to move 400 metres in the first hour and another 600 metres in the next hour and half. I am more patient than a vulture but this was too much.
I planned to reach the city centre some 24 kilometres away, but I could see myself finally parking at Samora Avenue by Christmas. I shelved my planned holiday shopping until Christmas was gone and done with. While many drivers waited patiently in long traffic queues, many more just muscled their way to the front of queues faster than Hussein Bolt, as if the rest of us had nothing to do till 2014.
I am not a violent person but having sweated in line for two hours and someone jumps the queue as if he owns the city, I silently wish his car is swept under the Selander bridge.
Courtesy was in short supply. I had expected delays on the road so I brought my laptop just in case and it proved handy. I made notes and listened to golden oldie songs. A s Super Mazembe band sang Kasongo mobali zonga libala, I felt like going back home but I was stuck. I imagined how floods could damage retail business.
Real customers who planned to do some serious shopping for friends and family being stuck in traffic could not be good for shop owners with full stocks awaiting Christmas buyers. Two o’clock came and went. I would have been having lunch at my favourite restaurant instead of being stuck in a five-cars-abreast on a twolane road, doing 200 metres per hour.
If Dar was hit by a tsunami like the one that crippled the Fukushima power plant in Japan in March we would be in real trouble. We seemed illprepared nd I am not talking about government but all of us being ready for unlikely emergencies like this mega flood. It will take a while to forget how Jangwani area appeared as if it was part of the Indian Ocean.
Watching live as houses were submerged or swept away by a ragging Msimbazi creek was heart-wrenching. The swollen waters covered large swathes of land from Tabata to Kigogo. What was happening to our beloved Bandar al Salama? This was a nightmare.We hear about disasters in the Asia-Pacific region all the time. We usually shrug such news off mentally.
That will not happen here, we think. It only happens somewhere out there, like the area they call the Pacific ring of fire. Earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters go knocking in that area so often they probably live, breathe, sleep and dream of natural disasters.
Here in the East of Africa, we dream of better life for every citizen, lots of money in our pockets, money obtained with minimum effort, just like winning the lotto. Here we live and breathe politics. We blame everybody else except ourselves for bad things that happen in our lives. We dine with kingmakers and sleep with peasants if that is what it takes to get what we want in life.
This time we danced with danger for too long. A nd now we cannot cry wolf because no one will believe us. The most affected people were in low-lying areas, built with sweat and blood, while breaking every building rule and zoning regulation conceived by city bureaucrats.
Often national and local authorities have warned and at times threatened those who build in low-lying areas to move out or else face the full force of the law. No one listened. As more people migrated to cities, a market for lowrent housing made building in unsurveyed areas a lucrative business.
Have you ever searched the internet for maps of Dar es Salaam? I have. Unplanned areas such as Msasani Bonde la Mpunga, Jangwani valley, parts of Kimara/Mbezi and Manzese Uzuri (what is beautiful about Manzese?) resemble intricate designs of butterfly wings on Google maps.
No roads or proper drainage, not even enough space for a fat pedestrian to negotiate his way between two buildings. A disaster was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. And when disaster struck, we were seemingly caught with our proverbial pants down. Response was slow and haphazard.
Millions of Dar residents appeared not know what to do to help friends, neighbours or strangers. Disaster relief started slowly, appearing somewhat uncoordinated. It has picked up since but it is going to be a bleak Christmas for many. Have lessons been learnt to put in place mechanisms for disaster preparedness, mitigation and response for the foreseeable future? Due to contamination of drinking water, a cholera outbreak may be around the corner.
The long rains are not too far off. More severe flooding could strike anywhere in the land of the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro Mountain. Are we ready? Will urban residents now avoid building in disasterprone locations? Will corrupt authorities desist from issuing building permits to developers who block natural storm drainage in places like Msasani or Kigogo?
Money speaks many languages and it is unlikely this disaster will silence money talk. Let us just hope we all come together regardless of political affiliations, to assist those affected by this and future disasters. Now is the time to fly helicopters with Chadema, CCM, CUF or other political party flags, not for electioneering but to give back to the electorate. After all, Christmas is a time for giving.
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