Senegal spends $11b on resettlement of Dakar’s displaced

FloodingThe government of Senegal has committed $11 billion to resettle 80,000 residents in its capital Dakar. The beneficiaries have been displaced by the country’s annual floods.

Last year alone, 11 deaths were recorded as a result of the collapsing of some houses during the floods, while a host of people were plagued with water borne and skin diseases, as well as malaria.

Apart from resettling communities, the amount has been mainly used for pump machines, big tubes and the creation of dams to store the flood waters and drain into the sea through the use of fire tenders of the country’s Fire Service, under the rainwater management and adaptation to climate change project.

These came to light, when about 28 journalists from 13 countries in the West Africa sub-region belonging to the regional network of water and sanitation journalists – WASH-JN, on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, undertook a trip to the Djeddah Tharoye Kao municipality in Dakar which has a population of 157,000.

Addressing the journalists in his office, the Municipal Chief Executive, Aliou Diouck, said Senegal has been inundated by floods since 1989 after a 20-year-long period of drought and already, 350,000 Dakar residents have been impacted by the floods.

He further intimated that as a result of the floods, communities have been displaced, while the water table of the municipality, which is made up of 66 districts, out of which only six are planned, is polluted.

This pollution of the water table was corroborated by Penda Sarr, an official at the municipality’s office, who led the journalists to a slum in the Pekine area, Djeddah, which has been overtaken by the floods.

She indicated that as a result of the pollution of the water table, which increases by one metre every year, a borehole that provided water for the slum had to be closed, since the water was not fit for human consumption.

But according to 17-year-old Comba Sarr who has lived in the community for 10 years, the lack of water is not their only worry.

“We buy garbage to the tune of CFA 20,000 when the floods come so we can stop the flood waters from reaching our residence. We have a very difficult situation when it floods from June to August,” she said.

Also sharing her experiences of the floods which began in earnest from 2005 with the visiting journalists, 28-year-old Senya Bou Ngom disclosed that malaria is always prevalent during the floods, adding “We have to eat, pray and do everything on the bed when the floods come.”

She affirmed that although they were relocated under temporal shelters of canopies in 2005, they stayed during the floods in 2012.

Senya Bou Ngom, a mother of one, disclosed further that during the floods, water from four standpipes in the community turned reddish, but quickly added that the local government authority gave them some chlorine tablets to purify the water for use, as well as mosquito nets, medicines and receptacles to store water.

Addressing the concerns raised during the tour by the journalists later in his office, the Mayor, Aliou Diouck, said much of the problems had arisen because people have settled illegally in places which have now become slums.

Stating that in the 1960s and 1970s many rural dwellers moved to the capital cities, thus giving rise to slums, he said, “120,000 people migrate to Dakar every year and settle in the Pekine area. In the beginning government tried its best but people built at night. People said they were land owners and gave them so called land titles to build.”

Disclosing that for four to five years the population in the area has increased, he stated: “We are obliged to provide them assistance because they are all citizens. Even though they settled illegally, we are obliged to defend their rights.”

He however stressed that the government cannot provide every support that the affected citizenry will require, because it does not have all the means to do so.

Proffering an answer to the question of why people will not leave the slum though it is a flood prone area, Aliou Diouck said: “It is difficult for people to leave the flooded areas because they are attached to the areas and will not like to leave friends or part of their livelihood.”

Earlier on in a briefing, Ibrahim Sane, a technical officer at the Municipal office told the West African journalists that in order to do effective flood control, the area had been zoned into three areas – A, B and C for a six-month field study.

Explaining that a proper data base is needed to enable effective flood control, he said the study will involve 6,000 houses in 445 settlements and 75,000 people.

Also adding her voice and giving an overview of the Djeddah slum area, Ms. Penda Sarr disclosed that as part of the study, 218 people took part in a workshop, while out of the 29,000 children in the community, only 12,000 are attending school because parents do not have the means to send their wards to school.

Meanwhile, during the visit to the Djeddah slum, it was noticed that almost the entire area had recently been inundated by the floods, with garbage strewn all around. This was very evident from a lot of deserted and destroyed houses that still had the flood waters in them.

Many of the vacated houses had only their top parts or roofing showing, as in an attempt to prevent flooding the residents had filled their perimeter with garbage and sand.

It was also evident as the Mayor disclosed; that some dwellers were determined to continue living in the place despite the floods – some construction was still ongoing despite the wide destruction of property that could be seen all around, and in one instance the builders had raised the foundation so high in an attempt to escape the flood waters when they come again.

From Edmund Smith-Asante, Dakar, Senegal

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