In Addis Ababa, where a third of Ethiopia’s urban population reside, a considerable number of people live in vulnerable and highly depleted houses and slum neighbourhoods. Not a small number of people also live without even the minimum liveable shelter – near riversides, garbage dumpsites and streets. These people are exposed to numerous health and life risks. The recent garbage dump landslide at Koshe, which killed 115 people and injured 54, is an unfortunate reminder of the risk. The summer will exacerbate the risk of flooding and communicable diseases. EBR’s Hiwot Salelew explores the extent of the problem; and the city’s preparedness to address that.
The recent accident at Koshe Landfill in Kolfe Keraniyo District is regrettable reminder of the danger and cost of living in vulnerable areas. The landslide occurred when a section of the dump collapsed onto a slum built at the base of the slope. Unfortunately, the majority of fatalities were reported to be women and children. Residents of the dumpsite have been living unpleasant life for decades. The site covers an estimated 36 hectares and takes around 4,000 tonnes of waste every day.
Such accidents leave an unforgettable psychological trauma on the rescued residents. Yet, many still live in and around vulnerable areas risking their lives.
Betha Nigussie, 55, lives around Ambassador Theatre area in Kirkos District. She has been living by a riverside for more than five decades. “There was flood a couple of years ago, destroying large number of houses and properties in the area,” Betha told EBR. “We tried everything to save our property but it nearly destroyed our entire house,” she remembers.
Betha has been living in this insecure area almost all her life. She believes that the only way she survived is for God’s mercy. According to her, people should not live around riversides. “We live here because we do not have anywhere to go due to financial problems. So, unless the government relocates us to another area, we cannot do anything but to pray.”
Yewebnesh Kasaye, in her late 40s, is another inhabitant of a riverside around Afinchober in Arada District. She has lived with her four children in this neighbourhood for 32 years. All these years, she has been worried that a flood might destroy her home and life. As she expected, Yewebnesh encountered an accident three years ago that she never forgets. “It was raining heavy one day. In the middle of the night, I woke up to see the flood which has already surrounded the compound. It destroyed most of my neighbour’s houses. But luckily, it only damaged my living room,” she recalls. “Such accidents might happen again, so the government should do something about it.” She lamented
Studies indicate that Ethiopia’s population growth in urban areas coupled with [poverty] is forcing people to live in vulnerable areas. The urban environment deterioration is partially aggravated by rural- urban migration. As a result, slums and informal settlements have become manifestations of neighbourhoods in most cities of Ethiopia including Addis Ababa. Such situations increase the risk of accidents. According to Addis Ababa City Fire and Emergency Prevention and Rescue Agency, 54 people were injured in the current fiscal year due to flooding.
Tarekegn Ayalew, a Lecturer at Bahir Dar University’s Risk, Crisis, and Disaster Management Department says, exposure and vulnerability are related to social, economic and political processes. “Although emergencies are often unpredictable, much can be done to prevent the hazards and mitigate their effects by strengthening the response capacity of communities at risk.” He argues.
Officials also claim that the government has started working towards mitigating disasters that might occur in vulnerable areas. The City Government recently conducted detailed research and proposed mitigation strategies to protect people’s lives from disastrous incidents. “Early warning strategies have been designed, and risky areas have also been identified for intervention,” says Dagemawit Moges, head of the City’s Communications Affairs Bureau. “We are evacuating 120 households in Koshe area. The necessary measures and legal procedures are also being taken.” she added
Dagmawit says, the government has a plan to reconstruct vulnerable areas. “We have conducted in-depth studies to address accidents caused by fire, flood, contamination and related crises. The City’s Fire and Emergence Prevention and Rescue Agency will also identify areas that are vulnerable to various dangers.” She said.
The City Government has already identified 111 places exposed to several risks with their causes and prevention strategies. “The first thing that has to be done is to identify vulnerable areas which we already did.” Dagmawit affirmed.
In addition to the flooding that cause death and property damage, the rivers in the areas that EBR visited are infested by piles of garbage and at some points, sewerages are connected to them. These increase the chance of contamination and diseases outbreak. In fact most rivers in the city have suffered an incessant degradation for so many years and they ended up being a waste disposal sites.
In recent years, the city has started taking actions to develop its rivers. It established the Rivers and Riversides Development and Climate Change Project Office in December 2015. The office has announced projects on rivers and riversides such as building retaining wall and web wire construction with ETB63.5 million. The budget will be used to develop six sites including Kebena, Mariyam, Shankila and Jemo rivers.
In addition, new 19 crucial sites have been identified as rehabilitation project sites. There is also a Rivers Cleaning Rally pilot project that benefited 300 unemployed youth in six woredas of Arada District. According to officials, the project will expand to other woredas and districts.
To provide permanent solutions to other vulnerable areas, the project office has prepared Rivers and Riversides Development Plan. The plan was prepared based on a study conducted with Addis Ababa University. “The areas to be reconstructed will provide communities [in the area] economic and social benefits,” says Mohammed Hussien, head of external and public relations at the Project Office. “These areas would be [distinguishing features] of Addis Ababa,” he hopes. EBR
5th Year • June 2017 • No. 51