Engineer Gonsalves Rutakyamirwa, a Municipal water engineer for Kinondoni has seen two very bad rains in the last three decades of his stay in Dar es Salaam.
First, it was in 1978 January, when he was at Mzizima Primary School. At the time, rains wrecked havoc and covered the entire Jangwani grounds and he says they could not even see the goal posts that once stood out on the vast playing field as they were immersed in water.’ It was like an ocean at Jangwani. It was only after two days that we started to see the goal posts again,” he says.
It surprised him that people returned to live in the same area when the floods subsided. Three decades on, bigger rains flooded Dar es Salaam, this time affecting more areas across the city towards the end of last year.
“Recently, when heavy rains inundated Dar es Salaam and displaced people from the same area of Jangwani, it was a sad replay of the same memories,” he says.
Dar es Salaam recently got its heaviest rainfall in more than half a century, leaving at least 23 dead and displacing 5,000 people, some of whom have already been allocated alternative areas by the government at Mabwepande in Bunju.
Today, Eng Rutakyamirwa, is the man responsible for the provision of water services for domestic use for the recent flood victims who were resettled by the government at Bunju.
To ease the relocation and resettlement plans for the 300 families, Ophir Energy made an emergency response in January through their donation of 30 water storage tanks with a total capacity of 150,000 litres worth over 18m/-.
“The donation of the tanks was extremely timely since the government had just completed its estimates for relocation requirements and established that a minimum of 20 tanks would be needed to provide easy access to water, “the Engineer said.
The tanks were handed over to the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Sadik Meck Sadiki at Mabwepande, as a response to the government’s call for assistance for the effective resettlement of the flood victims.
The RC reiterated by saying that, “Over 2000 families are being relocated here; and a reliable supply of clean water is essential to their survival.” He was touched by Ophir’s gesture, noting that water is life and that the donation was critical in preventing epidemics and generally improving the quality of life for the relocated persons. He lauded the company for seeing the need to support this noble cause by giving even before it had started earning from its operations. “Very few investors would do that,” he said.
Eng. Rutakyamirwa said, “The flood victims were relocated after it was confirmed that the tanks had indeed been procured that would ensure the supply readily accessible clean water to within 100m of each family dwelling..
Ophir, which opened its offices in the country in 2009, is a UK listed group of companies with oil and gas exploration assets in a number of African locations with the main location in Africa being Tanzania, where in 2010/2011,it carried out a highly successful offshore exploration campaign in the waters off Southern Tanzania.
The company is currently carrying out seismic work offshore in a new area, recently acquired through a Joint Venture with Ras al Khaimah Gas, and it is hoped that this will facilitate further drilling in late 2012.
Having listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2011, Ophir is now considering listing on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange to further demonstrate its long-term commitment to Tanzania.
The tanks it donated, Eng Rutakyamirwa says, have been put under use in a temporary water system before DAWASCO can place more permanent fittings to run the water system.
“The tanks have brought the service closer to the people and made water available to all the homesteads,” he says
He says the area is set to receive 600 more families. “We have already received 300 families. Others who are temporarily living with their relatives will also be resettled here.”
In interviews with different families in the area, it is evident that when their homes were swept away by the December floods, the world around them collapsed and life as they had once known it had drastically changed.
Now living at Bunju, Amina Mohammed Said, a mother of 4 says that when she came, there were fears of how they would access water, but that now has changed after Ophir’s donation.
“The water tanks are with us on the plots and we get clean water throughout,” she says
The Engineer says a recent meeting at the Ministry of Water resolved that in two months time, there will be a mid term water system in place but that in four months, a permanent system will have been put in place by DAWASCO. “At that time, tanks will sit on a laiser,” he says
He adds, “The Ophir tanks will be closer to the people and this will also enable them increase storage.”
Water from 10km to 50m
Perhaps, the best example of how the victims’ water story has improved peoples’ lives is Salima Musa, a 43-year-old mother who has lived in the area since 2003.
“I had a big water problem as we used to get water from the Mpigi area, which is over 10 km away. We used to go at night because during day there were usually long queues but thanks to Ophir, water is much closer now” she says
Among the hundreds of beneficiaries is Benjamin Samson, 44 who is a father to seven children. He was displaced from Ilala Mchikichini (Bonde la Msimbazi). He says the tanks have brought them a good service because they use the water for all their chores.
In fact, Samson says, many of their colleagues they left behind at Mchikichini want to come and join them because all the basic services are all in closer proximity.
Another beneficiary, Zawadi Mganza has 4 children. “Had we no water in this new area, it would have been hard for us to live,” she says
The Chairman to one block of 18 families Eliya Sadock (42) with five children says that since the tanks came, they have helped them a lot in water storage for all their families. “Once the water in one tank is done for the day, they have the option to resort to another tank with water,” he says
He wanted to know whether the tanks would be transferred elsewhere once they get tap water but he was told that the tanks would not move and it was now their property.
His neighbor Epimack Vumivumi 47, added that the usage of water is high in the area as the population is growing.
And for Eng. Rutakyamirwa, the challenge would be in ensuring that the local government keeps enough water in the tanks to sustain sufficient supplies.