MTWARA municipality is undoubtedly one of the fast growing urban centres in the country expected to grow even faster, thanks to the discovery of deposits of natural gas in the region recently.
People, who have toured the town often, may have witnessed that Mtwara keeps on changing day by day; new hotels, lodges and modern houses always mushrooming. But the growth of the town faces a threat of a serious calamity that in a way has become a common feature of the municipality particularly during the rainy seasons.
Many parts of the town become submerged as families are temporarily forced out of their homes by resultant ponds. The Mtwara District Commissioner, Mr Wilman Ndikile recently in a tour to console residents of the municipal, who had been forced out of their homes by floods, said that parts of the town are below the sea level.
Mr Ndikile looks at the problem as a complicated challenge not easy to solve, putting the authorities in a dilemma of how to immediately find appropriate measures. The recent rains accompanied by strong winds left some 45 houses roofless, 133 totally demolished and hundreds of residents sheltered in schools and churches.
"Most of the areas in my district are basins and that is to say they are under the sea level, therefore any move to put up a channel to the sea would cause the sea water to flow out to people's homes," Mr Ndikile said. He, however, admitted that the district has no reliable sewage system, leaving most of its roads prone to floods during rain seasons.
The areas which have been earmarked as prone to flood in the municipality include Nandope, Kiangu, Chuno, Skoya and Nabwada. Residents of these areas are happy with the support they have been getting from the district authorities, but they want something be done that will put in place a lasting solution. Residents of Nandope, for example, says lack of water channels in the highway worsens the situation because during the rainy season all the water flows to people's homes.
Nandope is located next to the municipals main road and near the district commissioner's offices. Hamis Mtanda, a resident of Nandope, said for many years now they have lived in fear of floods as any small rain in the area could leave their houses flooded. "I have been forced out of my house. As we talk now, already three-days have passed since my house and other neighbours' houses came under flood.
This has happened in almost all rainy seasons and the authorities have not come with any meaningful solution," he said. Mtanda believes that things would be different if serious measures were taken by the authority to address the matter. He said one of the causes of the floods was poor construction of roads, which as a result made water flow into people's homes because there were no trenches.
That kind of construction was a serious mistake, he said. Another resident, Josephat Kiwie, noted that the district authority should have provided reliable sewerage infrastructures to the areas or else mark the areas as unfit for human settlement. "We cannot go on like this. The situation is dangerous to people's lives, but the government is silent. How long shall we sit back and watch people suffering?" he asked.
Responding to some of these concerns, the District Commissioner said the authorities were aware of the problem, but there were no emergency alternatives in place to put a lasting solution. "What we normally do is to order our district engineers to find ways of pumping waters out of people's homes. A lasting solution to the problem will demand billions of shillings to put in place infrastructures. We will do that in our long term plans," he said.
The DC also noted that from time to time the town's authorities have asked for assistance from some gas exploration companies in the region. The companies have modern facilities for pumping water out of homes. The Mtwara Regional Commissioner, Col Joseph Simbakalia noted that Mtwara would soon develop into a modern and well arranged urban centre as the town's master plan was in the offing.
The Mtwara town master plan is also expected to put aside areas for industrial development and for various investments related to natural gas economy. Economists look at the town as a maiden city of natural gas in the country that will witness a rapid growth in the near future. Mtwara therefore needs proper planning and well placement of infrastructures.
The recent rains in the region were caused by a tropical cyclone-'FELLENG'-in Madagascar as announced earlier by the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA), which said it would cause heavy rain in nine regions, Mtwara being one. Other regions were Rukwa, Iringa, Mbeya, Njombe, Ruvuma, Morogoro, Lindi, Coast and neighbouring areas but floods hit hard in Mtwara municipality. The tropical cyclone "FELLENG" existed over the North-East of Madagascar and pulled moisture-rich air from Congo through the regions in question.