Situated on the east coast of Africa, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania's primate city, is a thriving commercial centre and regional hub. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. The city-region has a population of 5-5.5 million that could increase more than fivefold by 2050 if it continues expanding at the current rate.
Much of the population growth is the result of internal migration, with young people leaving the countryside to find work in the city. Informal housing is endemic: nearly 80 per cent of the city's inhabitants live in informal settlements.
Delivering sustainable development in this environment is a significant challenge. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to promote the "availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" by 2030.
Despite the global focus of the SDG indicators, decisions around water and sanitation improvements are likely to play out locally, across neighbourhoods, cities, aquifers and basins.
The challenges of providing safe water and sanitation to people living in Dar es Salaam typifies the issues that will be faced by burgeoning cities across Africa and the global South in the next decades.
The Connecting Cities to Basin project sought to connect the river basin and urban water and sanitation agendas in order to consider the challenge of realising SDG 6. Dar es Salaam provides us with a case study to consider the complexity of realising SDG 6 at all levels, from low-income urban settlements to the wider city and, ultimately, the entire river basin.
The Connecting Cities to Basins project sought to:
- Define community aspirations and trajectories to support water and sanitation improvements that move towards universal coverage in Dar es Salaam in an equitable manner
- Interrogate the plans and planning assumptions of water utilities to improve water and sanitation provision, based on the water resources available, and
- Develop a better basis, grounded in local understandings, for IIED to inform and challenge attempts to monitor progress towards international water and sanitation coverage targets.
Drawing on research undertaken with partners in Dar es Salaam over 12 months, the project explored the tensions between international targets and grassroots efforts to achieve universal water and sanitation provision.
It looked at how population growth, rapid urbanisation, and urban planning influence access to water and sanitation, and offered insights around the allocation and use of scarce water resources.
The findings allow us to consider the implications that realising the demands of the urban poor would realistically have for water resources at different scales, and the role that low-income communities can play in improving access to water and sanitation.
A water vending point in an informal settlement in Dar es Salaam (Photo: Anna Walnycki/IIED)
The tension between global indicators and local progress
In the year 2000, world leaders agreed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were designed to guide development assistance between 2000 and 2015.
Goal 7 focused on environmental sustainability, and included Target 7C, which aimed to "Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation".
To track progress on 7C, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF set up a Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP). The JMP introduced indicators for service levels, organised in 'ladders'. The 'rungs' were based mainly on the technical characteristics of the facilities available to households. The water ladder has three 'rungs': unimproved, other improved and piped water. The sanitation ladder has four levels: open defecation, unimproved, shared and improved.
The JMP results showed standards improving over time, but coverage remained persistently lower in rural areas, and in poorer countries and household groups. Overall, Target 7C for the water component was exceeded (91 per cent coverage in 2015, above the intended result of 88 per cent), while sanitation lagged behind (68 per cent in 2015, against a target of 77 per cent).
However, these statistics and indicators are misleading in several ways.
- Determining whether households have acceptable access is not simply a matter of deciding which water and sanitation technologies are acceptable. The same facilities may be more or less acceptable depending on where they are being used, for example in rural or urban areas.
- The phrasing of the targets and indicators implies that "improved" water and sanitation are also expected to be safe, but there were no direct measures of the quality of the water or observation of the final disposal of the faecal sludge. "Improved" provision is therefore not necessarily safe in all situations. Equally, the water target recorded mostly the physical presence of infrastructure (such as a borehole) and not whether it was actually working and delivering water to people on a continual basis.
- Indicators to track the delivery of the MDG were designed to provide a basis for international comparisons, but this meant that data on locally relevant criteria that could make the indicators more meaningful were overlooked. For example, the narrow focus on households is misleading since, even if an individual household has good sanitation, its health will be affected by the open defecation practised by its unequipped neighbours. Improved sanitation is a local public good that requires a collective response beyond the household.
- The statistics about the extent of "improved" water and sanitation can also be misleading when it comes to rural-urban comparisons. The implications of using low-cost on-site solutions are very different in rural and urban settings: for example, a shallow well is more likely to be contaminated by leakage from pit latrines in a densely settled urban location, while in rural areas, avoiding pollution from livestock faeces is often a major issue.
In 2015, the world agreed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for global progress up to 2030. The SDGs include a dedicated goal for water and sanitation, SDG 6, which aims to "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all". SDG 6 contains eight targets, and the draft core indicators currently being developed envisage measuring not "improved" but "safely managed" water and sanitation provision.
As these indicators are finalised, they may incorporate water quality tests and information on faecal sludge treatment and hygiene facilities. If so, estimates of current coverage may need to be revised downwards – to the extent that the ambitious target of universal and safe provision looks completely unrealistic – at least in the absence of a greatly reinvigorated international effort.
At least as important, while these new indicators do potentially provide a better basis for informing local action, they sacrifice local relevance to international comparability and neglect the water and sanitation priorities and practices of local residents.
This is best understood by considering the challenges faced in specific localities, exemplified in this project in Dar es Salaam.
Understanding the issues: from the basin to the settlement
Close to the equator and the warm Indian Ocean, the Dar es Salaam region has a tropical climate, typified by hot and humid weather. During the two rainy seasons the city is frequently hit by flooding.
Surface water supply to Dar es Salaam comes from the Ruvu river (as shown in the map below). The river originates in the Uluguru Mountains, where small streams combine to form three main tributaries, the Mgeta, Ruvu and Ngerengere. The Mgeta and Ruvu drain the south side and the Ngerengere drains the north.
The gradient of the river reduces as it descends to the lowland areas and the river is characterised by large meanders through lowland floodplains. During the rains, the main river channel regularly breaks its banks. The Ruvu basin experiences a bimodal rainfall pattern with peak rainfall in April/May, a dry season in July/August/September, and a second, smaller peak in December during the short rains. A water offtake downstream of the Morogoro road bridge conveys water to the city.
The Mpiji river forms the northern boundary of Dar es Salaam, the Msimbazi river flows to the north of the city centre, and the Kizinga and Mzinga rivers flow into the harbour area of the city. Only Kizinga provides some limited supply to the city.
Water resources and how people access water
The population of Dar es Salaam is around 5 million in the city region. Around half are supplied with piped water while less than 10 per cent have access to piped sewerage.
The remainder use on-site sanitation, predominantly pit latrines, which are toilets that collect waste in the ground, in pits that may be lined with various materials. This on-site sanitation sources water from "informal" sources – vendors and/or groundwater – where the quality is affected by pollution from poorly lined pit latrines and saline water intrusion.
Gallery of 4 images. Pit latrines in informal settlements provide a glimpse of the variety that exist. They can be lined using a variety of materials, including bricks, stones, tyres and metal drums
Who is responsible for managing water supplies?
The main public agencies responsible for water and sanitation services are the Dar es Salaam Water and Sanitation Authority (DAWASA) and its subsidiary company, the Dar es Salaam Water Supply Company (DAWASCO). They are accountable to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.
DAWASCO is responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the water and sewer systems, fee recovery, and providing service connections. DAWASA is the asset holder, building and repairing the major network infrastructure.
The city's wider urban area is administered by five municipalities that maintain public health by, for instance, inspecting pit latrines. They have also constructed monitor boreholes in areas where the DAWASA supply network is lacking.
DAWASA's historical strategy for water supply has been largely based on the exploitation of surface water. Three surface water intakes (two from the Ruvu and one from the Kizinga) feed most of the main public water supply network.
DAWASCO also exploits between 16 and 21 boreholes for public supply. These are not connected to the wider network but distribute supplies to local areas that otherwise lack water. These "emergency" boreholes were drilled in response to the 1997 drought and were intended for short-term usage.
Many more boreholes and shallow wells have been built – either for individual household use or including limited household connections that are often shared with neighbours – and community street taps have been sunk privately in the city. NGOs have also been active in supporting community-managed supplies. Mtoni (2013) noted that while there were only 1,300 registered boreholes in Dar es Salaam in 2005, Baumann et al. (2005) estimated that there were more than 4,000 boreholes in total and, in 2008, Danert put the figure at around 9,000.
Normally, all boreholes should be authorised and registered with the Wami Ruvu Basin Office (an agency of the Ministry for Water and Irrigation), but not only are total numbers unknown, their offtake from the aquifer is unmonitored.
Informal water and sanitation provision beyond the main DAWASA network is driven by a range of actors including municipalities, NGOs, communities, and a spectrum of private vendors.
How formal and informal urbanisation shapes access to water and sanitation across the city
Poor urban planning contributes to the growth of informal settlements and basic service deficiencies, but progressive improvements in access to water and sanitation could be achieved by engaging with the informal water providers in the city
Research undertaken by Ardhi University explored the informal processes of urbanisation that shape unequal access to water and sanitation in the city, and the land development, settlements and basic services that are not planned for or regulated, and are driven by local actors, families, communities and entrepreneurs. University researchers also advocate for better engagement with the informal sector and better collaboration between formal and informal actors in the sector.
"One of the most critical challenges facing the city of Dar es Salaam is how to develop infrastructure for basic service provision, which can in turn stimulate and promote coherent urban growth and development," the university stated. "There are many factors underlying inadequate access to basic services in the city, including the underestimation of the potential inherent to the informal sector.
"Informality is an integral part of urban growth in sub-Saharan cities such as Dar es Salaam. It is a mode of urbanisation that is shaped by local actors, norms and values, at least during the infancy and consolidation of informal settlement development. The practical and strategic significance of urban informality lies in its ability to circumvent the urban planning and design norms. Informality disregards formal regulations and standards to partially meet some of the basic needs of the bulk of urban inhabitants, that the formal land, housing and basic service delivery systems have failed."
Ardhi University argues that, despite its weaknesses, informality will remain a key dimension of urban land development for quite some time in the future; not least because the private sector and the ordinary lower and the middle-income earners are exerting much influence on its sustained growth. Future options to improve services have to be open to engaging with these formal and informal realities in service delivery in the city, and improving the collaboration and mutual interest between the two sectors.
Better coordination between formal and informal institutions and stakeholders in the sector could support improvements. This applies to management and governance of water and sanitation services, water sources, and data collection and sharing.
Mapping water and sanitation progress at the community level
Local communities have a role to play in identifying water and sanitation needs and solutions. They remain an untapped resource.
The Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation (TUPF) has experience collecting data to improve access to water and sanitation services in informal settlements. In partnership with the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI), they have profiled and mapped low income and informal settlements.
The data is useful for discussing local development needs with local communities, developing local solutions, and then upgrading services both through grassroots approaches and negotiated partnerships with local government and utilities.