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Drones help communities map flood risk in Dar es Salaam slums:Read more>>>

The sight of a drone hovering above the streets of Tandale to map the crowded flood-prone neighbourhood in the north of Dar es Salaam spread excitement among inhabitants tired of dealing with regular inundations.

“I am happy to see something is being done to prevent flooding,” said 35-year-old resident Happy Malimbo.

With the help of drones, city authorities are drawing up plans to protect and assist suburbs at risk of flooding like Tandale, offering a glimmer of hope to those who live there.

Since 2013, Dar es Salaam City Council has worked with the World Bank and other partners, including the Red Cross and the Open Geospatial Consortium, to plot roads, streams and flood plains using drones.

Dubbed Ramani Huria (Swahili for “Open Mapping”), the project aims to help communities in slums create accurate maps of their localities, which can be used to reduce flood risks and improve response to disasters, officials said.

Floods come every year to Tandale, one of Dar es Salaam’s largest slums, but inadequate planning means the naturally occurring hazard often turns into a man-made disaster.

Local people say they have repeatedly suffered losses due to flooding, which has also left hundreds without shelter.

“I lost most of my belongings as the flood water stormed into the house in April this year,” said Malimbo, who has three children.

With almost 70 per cent of its inhabitants living in informal settlements, Dar es Salaam is highly vulnerable to flooding, especially in densely populated slum areas like Tandale.

Heavy rains fall twice a year, often resulting in severe floods that force thousands of people from their homes and cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

Community ownership

Juliana Letara, head of urban planning at Kinondoni Municipal Council, said the Ramani Huria initiative had trained university students and community members to identify and map areas mostly likely to be hit by floods, enabling local authorities to take action in real time.

Several wards in Tandale, in Kinondoni municipality, have been mapped to create flood risk models, and a community resilience plan has established evacuation routes.

“If you can trace where it floods, you can either install or upgrade infrastructure to improve the situation for the people,” Letara told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The production of detailed datasets and collaboration with a separate Red Cross project to tackle flooding have led to the creation of local teams and plans for disaster preparedness and response in 10 of Dar es Salaam’s most flood-prone communities.

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