Dar es Salaam — There has never been a more overt display of Dar es Salaam's dire need for traffic decongestion mechanisms as when heavy rains start mercilessly pouring.
Such was the case this week, the sorry state of roads, most of which were impenetrable due to bumper-to-bumper traffic jam that rendered the city immobile for hours on end.
But even as Tanzania's commercial capital has witnessed the recent construction of a flyover and an interchange aimed at lessening the heavy flow of traffic, the situation is far from ideal.
Nearly six million people currently call Dar es Salaam home, making it one of fastest-growing cities in Africa. Its growth rate of 6.5 percent will see the number of residents rise to over 10 million by 2030.
Rapid increase in urban population leads to economic growth, increase in employment opportunities, increase in number of cars and number of people using cars in the city. This inevitably leads to gridlock on city's busy roads. However, there are several ways cities and states can move to curb traffic congestion jitters.
In 2019, Bogota, Colombia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were the two cities that topped the list of highest levels of congestion, according to data by Traffic analytics company Inrix.
The average person in Bogota and Rio de Janeiro loses 191 hours and 190 hours to traffic each year, respectively.
In Africa, Cape Town in South Africa leads with the highest traffic congestion for commuters, with an average person losing 124 hours to traffic per year. There is no official data for how many hours commuters in Dar city lose to traffic.
In Tanzania, the government has adopted different measures to decongest the city apart from the construction of flyovers at main junctions, there is the development of a network of feeder/de-congestion roads. However, some of these important feeder roads remain undeveloped, making commuters fail to fully utilize the availability of these alternative and often shorter routes.
Tanzania Roads Agency (Tanroad), chief executive officer Patrick Mfugale said the challenge of high traffic congestions started over 15 years ago when the Dar city was growing to be the country's largest metropolis.
As household incomes rise around the city, more and more people shift from slower, less expensive modes of movement to privately-owned cars and trucks.
In the early 2000s, the city had only one Central Business District (CBD) Kariakoo to Posta, with the arterial roads originating from the center. This means that a lot of city services and institutions were located at one major point.
This resulted in traffic predominantly flowing from residential areas to the CBD in the mornings and vice versa in the evenings.
What the government has done
"In 2006 we started implementing a number of strategies to minimize traffic congestions. These include adding lanes to existing roads, constructing overpasses and underpasses at congestion intersections and building ring roads," Tanroads chief executive says. However, "traffic congestions in urban areas cannot be completely eliminated but can only be minimized to acceptable levels and there is no single solution," he said.
Mfugale added: "Our network of decongestion roads have succeeded in minimizing the level of traffic congestions in some of the areas in the city, they have allowed easier access to the CBD and other local amenities."
The Tanroads boss said the government also decided to construct flyovers at city's busy intersections such as the Mfugale Flyover named after him, which is at Tazara-Nyerere road and the ongoing Ubungo intersection flyover.
In 2015, the government began building a 46.2-kilometer network of feeder/decongestion roads in Dar, this includes the 1.6-kilometre road from Kigogo to Tabata Dampo, University of Dar es Salaam road and the 8-kilometre road from External via Kilungure to Kimara Korogwe.
Others include 20-kilometre road from Mbezi Mwisho via Goba, Wazo Hill to Tangi Bovu and the 14-kilometre road that starts from Kinyerezi via Kifuru to Mbezi Mwisho.
The Ubungo City Council's engineer Mr Mathias Lutobeka, said these roads have helped in mitigating many transportation woes in the district, as for now, it has become easier to move from one area to another even during rush hours.
"Compared to previous years, a local individual who resides in Mbezi can now go to the airport and arrive at a convenient time," he said. In order to reduce private cars on roads, a number of measures have been taken. These include the improvement of public transport through the introduction of rapid transit systems and the introduction of urban trains on a limited basis from Ubungo to the City Center.
Deogratius Anthony, a Tabata resident who works at the city centre, said for him the existence of decongestion roads has made movements easier, especially for those who work at the city centre though he sees the challenge is far from over.
"Everyone hates traffic congestions. Despite the attempted remedies such as the rapid transit buses and flyovers, the problem still exists," he said.
The hassle during rainy Season
Just south of the equator, Tanzania has (with the exception of certain areas) a tropical climate influenced by the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, there are still differences per region; it is tropical on the coast and can freeze on Mount Kilimanjaro.
In Dar es Salaam, hours of heavy rains in a day always lead to floods. Some parts of the city disrupt transport and slow down business activities while key roads remain closed for hours.
For instance, this week's downpour led to submersion of roads, with water in areas such as Msimbazi, Jangwani, Kijitonyama, Mwananyamala, Tabata Relini, Kinondoni and Mbagala. Martin Mfuko, an insurer working in the city centre and living in Segerea said during the rainy season he would prefer using the main roads instead of the feeder roads because most of the feeder roads become heavily flooded with deep water holes making it inconvenient.
"These street roads are a big challenge, so I would rather spend hours in the traffic on the main road than putting my car in such a jeopardizing situation," he said.
John Louis, a Tegeta resident said, though feeder roads can be helpful during the dry season, there is still more work to be done.
He said because some of them are still in the construction stage, the government needs to make sure the projects are completed on time to meet the desired objective of minimizing traffic jams.
"They should also consider quality standards of these roads, because even those which are already complete end up with potholes within a short period of time," he said.
Mr Louis added: "Most importantly, the government should consider putting tarmac on all feeder roads."
Ziada Magota has a food-shop in Tabata. When it rains, the roads outside her business spot are often flooded. "This is where I obtain my daily bread, how can I survive in such conditions? The government needs to put a good drainage system in these roads," she said
Fatma Gongo, a Buguruni resident said, the government needs to consider developing sustainable infrastructures, which includes feeder roads that most often pass close to residential areas.
She says that when it rains, it's not only the underdeveloped roads which get affected, but also residents' houses.
"The unavailability of proper infrastructure pushes the affected people to be temporarily hosted by friends and family who live on the other sides of the city," she said.
Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communications Mr Elias John Kwandikwa, said the government has sustainable plans to develop infrastructure within the city and control the impact of heavy rains.
He said plans are in motion to implement good drainage systems, and construction of standard feeder roads.
"City development cannot be achieved in a single day, it is an ongoing process. Plans include elevating Morogoro road at the Jangwani area and the resilience strategies in Msimbazi Basin which is one of the areas that experience frequent flooding," he said.
During his presidential campaign in Kawe this week, President John Magufuli said the government has set aside nearly Sh32 billion to counter flooding problems in the city.
"We have a plan to eliminate this nuisance, and it is already in motion," he said.
Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP)
In 2015 the World Bank-funded a DMDP project valued at nearly $300 million and it is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
"The development objective of the DMDP for Tanzania is to improve urban services and institutional capacity in the Dar es Salaam metropolitan area and to facilitate potential emergency response," the World Bank stated.
The project's first priority was to improve the infrastructure in the city metropolis with the development of the network of feeder roads.
The first component priority infrastructure will finance improvements and the construction of priority roads and feeder roads in the urban core to alleviate congestion hotspots, and support public transit, mobility, and connectivity to low income communities.