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Climate Change

Saving Beira

Flooding in some neighbourhoods in Beira. Credit: Andrew Mambondiyani/IPS

BEIRA, Mozambique, Apr 6 2016 (IPS) - Mozambique’s second largest city, Beira, is heading for climate change-induced disaster. Cyclones, floods, storm surges and the rising sea level are threatening to annihilate this important Indian Ocean coastal city; a city which is strategic for landlocked countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia.

And the impoverished residents have no idea how they are going to save their homes. Some are already envisaging migrating from the city. Joaquim Zimazi, from Ponta Gea, a neighbourhood in Beira, told IPS that he watched his house succumb to a massive tidal surge last year.

“This angry sea is going to swallow us all alive,” a visibly scared Zimazi said.

In most coastal neighbourhoods, sand bags separate the angry sea from houses. But some of these crudely built sea walls are succumbing to the pressure from rising sea water.

The harsh weather conditions in Beira have left many residents worried about their future amid reports than more than 55,000 people in Beira may lose their homes to the sea in the next decade.

Experts have linked the violent storms, floods and cyclones in the city to climate change. And according to a report by the Mozambican National Institute for Disaster Management, there has been an increase in natural disasters in the country during the past three decades.

Beira was built in the 19th century by the Portuguese and designed for at least at most 30, 000 people. But today the population has ballooned to more than 400, 000. And most of these people live in poorly planned settlements which are vulnerable to climate change- induced calamities.

“The sea destroyed my house and I could not do anything to save it, we tried to use barricades made of sand bags but they could not help.” Zimazi said.

And in March this year some areas in Beira were cut off from the rest the city by floods which were a result of incessant rainfall.

According to the Mozambican media ( neighbourhoods-in-beira-mozambique/) some latrines were flooded, causing human waste to enter into drinking water supplies, exacerbating the already poor sanitation system in the densely populated neighbourhoods.

Another resident, Mussa Joanne, told IPS that the situation at the coastal city was now unbearable for poor people. “We have been trying to build barricades or temporary sea walls using sacks filled with sand and stones but this is not working,” Joanne said.

Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, said they did a tropical cyclone risk analysis for Beira and wrote a report in 2013 in partnership with the Massachusetts-based consulting firm, Industrial Economics, which supervised the project.

The report -Assessing the Risk of Cyclone-Induced Storm Surge and Sea-level Rise in Mozambique ( – revealed that a medium sea level rise scenario consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections through 2050 could increase the frequency of the current 100-year storm.

“Structural options for adapting the area to address the risks of inundation and episodic flooding include constructing or reinforcing new and existing levees and elevating vulnerable structures in low- lying areas subject to episodic flooding,” the report said.

The drainage system and coastal protection in Beira are currently insufficient to effectively protect the residents against floods.

And as such Beira urgently needs to adapt to the effects of climate change.The city’s infrastructure is failing, and the city is now pinning hopes on a new plan, the Beira master plan ( to be fully implemented by 2035.

A Dutch engineering firm, Deltares, in conjunction with the Beira municipality is developing the plan. As part of the plan, the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, recently said upto 120,000 residents living in low lying areas in the city would be moved to higher areas. “The master plan has been elaborated through an intensive process of participation by several stakeholders of the Beira community,” he added.

According to Simango, more than US $100 million was needed to fully implement the master plan, an amount which he said the city could not raise without assistance from private players. But to forestall more damage without waiting for a huge influx of cash, Peter Letitre, a senior project manager for the Netherlands-based company Deltares, said they would make some important policy changes to make Beira resilient to climate change.

These policy changes include, among other issues, stopping uncontrolled issuing of land use concessions in areas designated for water retention. “The future extension areas of Beira have been planned in higher situated areas of Beira where risks of sea level rise are less and where better drainage facilities are part of the integral planning of new urbanised areas,” he elaborated.

According to the Beira master plan, the disorderly urban development of Beira is partly caused by land speculation as concession fees are relatively low and future financial stakes are high. And land speculation affects sustainable development of Beira as concession holders or private developers are not encouraged to ensure basic infrastructure and create suitable land for construction.


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