The City administration has ambitious plans to convert squalid slum areas into what will be a model for an emerging African city by building climate resilient centers for the preservation of the environment and sustainability of green economy, according to experts in the sector.
The plan is to turn the calamity to an opportunity by controlling and directing the water into attractive features such as ponds, waterways, urban gardens, and green areas. Such impressive development endeavors are globally practiced, for instance, in China, Angola and South Korea.
Director to the Addis Ababa River and Riversides Development Project Office, Walelign Desalegn, said that the project office aims at installing climate change resilience system which can provide economic, social, spiritual and environmental services to inhabitants of the city.
In these rehabilitating services, the city administration is engaged in reversing and averting challenges of rivers, riversides, and combating the existing and prospective climate change effects. The city has more than 7 large rivers and about 76 small and medium rivers that flow year long, he noted.
Office Senior Public Relations Expert Weredekal Gebre-kiristos told The Ethiopian Herald that the primary role of the rivers' development is to promote the health of residents and visitors besides boosting city's tourism sector. It is also crucial to prevent water contamination, control flash floods and landslides as well as expand recreational centers, he said.
According to Weredekal, the project sites were selected from the most vulnerable neighborhoods across the city, where activities of community mobilization and awareness creation have been done. Members of the community and officers have been active in rehabilitating the environment, greening and waste management activities, he added.
Weredekal said that building climate resilient city and community is a worldwide experience that includes runoff control, rainwater harvesting, sustainable urban agriculture expansion, promotion of green energy technologies. It as well enhances the living standards of vulnerable groups through the provision of livelihoods skills.
He also said the project office is identifying areas which are vulnerable to flood, and implementing designs of river banks so that such spots could serve as recreational centers parallel to providing improved and quality environmental services for residents.
Though disposing all types of waste in rivers and riversides is a major cause of river pollution, the Project Office has been implementing the initiative to make clean, green and attractive rivers and riversides of Addis through providing awareness creation training on practicing acceptable waste management systems.
To minimize and alleviate these problems the project office has designed a project which objectively focuses on mobilizing the public, creating sustainable job opportunity and improving livelihood, and ultimately cleaning the rivers, he explained. It has set the ball rolling.
According to Weredekal, the project has three implementation phases- piloting, scaling up with in the same wereda and River and full-fledged implementation. The first phase of the project was launched last December 2016, in 6 weredas, three sub-cities, to clean and conserve 6 km of river sides, under the motto 'Hundred kilo meters by hundred meters River Cleaning Rely'.
This project, in the entire process, envisages to create 5,000 viable jobs to the youths and women who are organized in 1,000 cooperatives. Apart from creating job opportunities and livelihood, there is a plan to come up with more accessible green spaces and significant chunk of agricultural land, he added.
In addition, the project office is identifying areas which are vulnerable to flood, and implementing design of river banks to serve as recreational center and providing improved and quality environmental services for residents.
To make this happen, the city administration has allocated 68,373,883.15 birr for the construction of eight selected riversides which cover an area of 200,390 meter square. Of these, the construction of two was completed and works were handed over recently, while the remaining six are expected to be completed within 3 months, Weredekal disclosed.
With regard to watershed management, Weredekal noted that the project office is making tangible efforts to develop the city's unique topography of contrasting low lying areas and high rising hill slopes surrounding the inner urban areas.
As to him, the surrounding hills, especially the northern hills, are water sources for many of the streams crisscrossing or draining the city. The natural vegetation on the hill slopes provides unique opportunity for the city micro-climate regulation, ground water recharge, and recreation and biodiversity conservation.
Thus, the primary streams draining in the city have significant contributions to recharge ground water, minimize flood risk and prevent water pollution. These rehabilitation zones require holding good soil cover, well managed and protected forest cover, and well planned environmental friendly outdoor recreation facilities for the city dwellers.
In this regard, the project office plans to conduct soil and water conservation activity on the area of 730 hectares in the city upper catchment. In the course of the past 7 months of implementation, significant amount of development works had been done on 258 hectares of denuded land.
Of which, the construction of 23 km hillside terrace, 5.6 km stone bund and 1,164 meter cube check dam have been completed. In addition to these, 2431 eyebrow basing, and 198 improved pits have been constructed. About 16.5 km bunds are covered by local grass species. Over one million Birr is provided to 80 households in Yeka Subcity Woreda 10 locally known as 'Dansse'.