Resources & Climate
Issue Brief

CORVI Risk Profile: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

A holistic city-based assessment of the climate risks facing Dar es Salaam.
Part of the CORVI Project
By Jack Stuart  ·  Sally Yozell  ·  Dr. Valentine Ochanda  ·  Tracy Rouleau  ·  Dr. Victor Indasi  ·  Kaitlyn Lombardo

As risks from climate change to coastal cities continue to increase, governments, public and private investors, and the insurance industry need targeted risk information to prioritize action and build resilience where it matters most.

In response, the Stimson Center developed the Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index (CORVI). CORVI is a decision support tool which compares a diverse range of ecological, financial, and political risks across 10 categories and nearly 100 indicators to produce a holistic coastal city risk profile. Each indicator and category are scored using a 1-10 risk scale relative to other cities in the region, providing a simple reference point for decision makers looking to prioritize climate action and resilience investment.

This issue brief presents the CORVI Risk Profile for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The profile combines empirical data, expert interviews, surveys, and desk research to analyze how climate and ocean risks are impacting the city. This information is used to develop detailed priority recommendations for Dar es Salaam to reduce its climate vulnerabilities and work to build a sustainable future.

For more information on the CORVI methodology, please see the CORVI East Africa report.

This risk profile was produced in collaboration with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).

On this page
Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Dar es Salaam is a sprawling city, home to an estimated 6.4 million people. Once the capital of Tanzania, it is the world’s second fastest-growing city, the most populated coastal city in East Africa, and the fifth-largest city on the African continent.1Ibrahim Msuya, Irene Moshi, and Francis Levira, “Dar es Salaam: The Unplanned Urban Sprawl Threatening Neighbourhood Sustainability,” Ifakara Health Institute/SHLC , last modified October 21, 2020, accessed July 12, 2021,; Jonathan Rosen, “This Tanzanian City May Soon Become the World’s Most Populous. Is It Ready?” National Geographic, last modified April 15, 2019, accessed August 16, 2021, With an annual urbanization rate of 5.6 percent, Dar es Salaam is expected to grow to 13.3 million residents by 2035. This dramatic growth poses challenges that are being exacerbated by climate change. As a result of urban expansion, the geographic area of the risk profile includes the immediate city limits in the Msimbazi basin and all urban areas in the five municipalities that intersect with Dar es Salaam: Ilala, Temeke, Ubungo, Kinondoni, and Kigamboni. This urban area is administered by the Dar es Salaam City Council.

Empirical data and 49 expert surveys incorporated into the Dar es Salaam CORVI risk profile are displayed across 10 categories and 88 indicators.2Six indicators in the Stability category were excluded because of a lack of data. For a full list of organization interviews and data sources, please see the appendix. These scores are supplemented with information about resiliency planning already underway and 31 interviews from experts working on climate resilience in the Dar es Salaam metro area.

Summary Findings

The CORVI analysis highlights significant economic and social factors under financial and political risk that are compounding climate change impacts and increasing vulnerability across the city. A high risk score for Major Industries (7.98) highlights significant reliance on key sectors, including ports and shipping, and tourism. Medium-high risk scores across Social/Demographics (7.31), Governance (6.66), and Infrastructure (6.50) categories reflect risks associated with unplanned urbanization and coastal development, vulnerability of city residents who reside in informal housing, and risks to waste infrastructure, and the economic impact of flooding. These impacts are closely associated with corresponding risks to the natural environment, which are captured in the Ecosystems category (5.93).

Rapid urbanization is a key issue, driving risk across multiple categories and indicators. Although Dar es Salaam and the surrounding metropolitan area is relatively safe from tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall and flooding from both land and sea is a constant concern. This problem is compounded by unplanned settlements, with 75 percent of the population living in informal housing.3United Republic of Tanzania, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, 2019, Ministerial Annual Budget to 2018/19 Parliament Session. Often located in low-lying, flood-prone areas, these neighborhoods are especially susceptible to climate risks. This issue is exacerbated by a lack of solid waste management, with waste regularly blocking drainage points and contributing to urban flooding, stagnant water in urban areas, and the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Dar es Salaam is an economic powerhouse, responsible for 17 percent of the national GDP of Tanzania and serving as the primary entry point for trade and tourism.4Abiy S. Kebede and Robert J. Nicholls, “Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes: Population and Asset Exposure to Coastal Flooding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Regional Environmental Change 12, no. 1 (2011): 81–94, Under financial risk, key areas of concern are economic reliance on key climate-vulnerable industries such as ports and shipping, tourism, and agriculture, as well as the risk posed by flooding to key infrastructure, including bridges, roads, and coastal development. Ecological Risk scored the lowest across the three categories, reflecting that Dar es Salaam is historically unlikely to be impacted by tropical cyclones and has relatively high fish stock health at the national level. However, continued coastal development is harming the terrestrial and ocean environment, contributing to coastal erosion, freshwater shortages, and degraded fish stocks and ecosystems. This development compounds climate impacts such as sea-level rise and flooding.

The government of Tanzania has recognized the need to build resilience in Dar es Salaam. This is evident in multiple national adaptation strategies and climate adaptation project partnerships that exist between local and international funders. However, disorganized urban planning that does not systemically integrate ocean and climate risks, exacerbated by gaps in financial and technical expertise, have stymied the formulation of integrated planning that connects the development of key sectors, the terrestrial and marine environment, and the needs of vulnerable communities. The CORVI risk profile identifies three priority areas in need of action in order to build resilience and plan for systemic risks:

  • Establish a permanent coordination structure to explicitly integrate ocean risks and marine spatial planning into the city master plan. To ensure a participatory process, this structure should include national and city-level governing entities, civil society, and the private sector and help disperse information about climate risks and promote the narrative that effective environmental and management of the land and seascape is critical to building resilience, rather than obstructing development.
  • Expand flood adaptation programs, with a focus on meeting the needs of vulnerable neighborhoods by expanding community-based savings schemes and strengthening waste management systems. Specific actions include upgrading informal settlements to make them more resistant to flooding; expanding waste management services to vulnerable communities; increasing access to financial services, including community saving schemes, to improve household-level resilience; and further integrating nature-based solutions into flood defenses.
  • Enhance climate adaptability in port, tourism, and urban agricultural sectors by protecting them from climate risks and ensuring that negative environmental impacts are minimized. To do this, an integrated strategic coastal environmental assessment is needed to incorporate various stakeholder and economic interests, including balancing hard infrastructure and economic development with natural infrastructure solutions. 

By advancing cross-cutting policies and channeling resources and investment to these areas, Dar es Salaam can reduce its climate vulnerabilities and work to build a sustainable future.

Ecological Risk

Dar es Salaam’s coasts and coastal ecosystems—including beaches, mangroves, coral reefs, and coastal forests—add significant value to its urban blue economy. The Dar es Salaam coast draws thousands of tourists to the city each year and sustains nearshore fish stocks important to both food security and the fishing economy. Beyond their direct economic value, these ecosystems reduce coastal erosion and protect the coastline against extreme weather events. As the lowest scoring risk type in the CORVI risk profile, Ecological Risk highlights the importance of these ecosystem services, low risk from extreme storms, and relatively healthy national fish stocks. Nevertheless, Dar es Salaam also faces notable ecological risks that, unless properly addressed, could severely undermine the city’s economy, biodiversity, and the security of city residents.

  • In the ECOSYSTEMS category (expert weighted avg 5.93), both coral reef (7.18) and seagrass coverage (7.13) received medium-high risk scores, highlighting the decline of coastal ecosystems, which heightens coastal vulnerability to climate change. Harmful algal blooms (7.09) also received a medium-high risk score, indicating that pollution is a significant area of concern, posing an additional threat to coastal and human health.
  • In the GEOLOGY/WATER category (expert weighted avg 5.02), the high and medium-high risk scores focus on the risks posed by vector-borne disease (8.29) and flood events (6.68).
  • While the CLIMATE category scores as medium risk (expert weighted avg 3.76), high and medium-high risk scores emphasize Dar es Salaam’s vulnerability to sea-level rise (8.20), coastal erosion (6.34), and saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers (6.04), all of which highlight risks to coastal infrastructure, coastal populations, and access to clean drinking water.
  • The medium risk score in the FISHERIES category (expert weighted avg 3.10) suggests that fisheries do not significantly impact risk for Dar es Salaam. However, medium-high risk scores for the percentage of fisheries certified by the Marine Steward Council (6.06), fish consumption (5.85), and the capacity of fisheries enforcement institutions (5.18) suggest future vulnerabilities for the fishing industry if marine resources are not sustainably managed.

CORVI’s Ecological Risk indicators show risks clustered around ecosystems and flood risk, with lower scores recorded in fisheries and climate. Nationally, Tanzania’s coral reefs and seagrass beds, which cover about two-thirds (600 km) of Tanzania’s continental shelf, serve important ecological and economic functions. For example, coral reefs and beaches are one of the country’s main tourist attractions, sustain livelihoods in coastal communities, and provide an important source of foreign currency. Moreover, coral reefs help to prevent coastal erosion by mitigating the effects of strong waves on the coastline, thus shielding Tanzania’s coastal biodiversity and infrastructure. However, Tanzania’s coral reefs and seagrass beds are under threat from various human and non-human stressors, including coral bleaching events caused by increasing ocean surface temperatures, coastal development, and unsustainable fishing practices.5Greg M. Wagner, “Coral Reefs and Their Management in Tanzania,” Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science 3, no. 2 (October 2007): 227–243, This is reflected in declining levels of coral (7.18) and seagrass bed (7.13) coverage.

Tanzania also houses one of the largest continuous mangrove forests in Africa, encompassing an estimated 115,000 hectares of coastline. This large expanse is reflected in a medium risk score for mangrove coverage (4.58). Mangroves are a vital coastal resource in Tanzania, providing shelter to juvenile fish species and coastal infrastructure, preserving the coastline’s marine biodiversity, and providing an important source of food and income to local villagers.6Daniel M. Alongi, “Carbon Cycling and Storage in Mangrove Forests,” Annual Review of Marine Science 6 (January 2014): 195–219, accessed July 8, 2021, In Dar es Salaam, small mangrove forests remain in the following areas: Dege, Nguvu, Kibugumo, the Mzinga Creek fork, Janwani Beach, and from Mbenwi northwards along the beach. However, mangrove deforestation continues as a result of coastal development, beach seine fishing techniques, tourism, and inadequate waste management.7United Republic of Tanzania, Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Human Settlement Development, “Dar es Salaam City Master Plan 2016-2036,” Main Report, Vol. 1, 25, This threat is noted in a higher risk score for mangrove health (5.53), indicating that the health of existing mangroves is declining.

The geography of Dar es Salaam, along with increasingly erratic rainfall and rising sea levels, increases the risk of flooding. While the number of annual rainfall events has decreased, individual rainfall events are growing more severe.8Interview with representative from Center for Climate Change Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, April 2021. This has had corresponding impacts on people, businesses, and the environment, as reflected in a medium-high flood risk score (6.68). Floods frequently impede city traffic, destroy homes, and curtail economic activity. The floods of April 2018, for example, destroyed roads and bridges, displaced 1,215 households, and generated household losses of approximately $100 million.9Alvina Erman, Mercedeh Tariverdi, Marguerite Obolensky, Xiaomeng Chen, Rose Camille Vincent, Silvia Malgioglio, Jun Rentschler, Stephane Hallegatte, and Nobuo Yoshida, “Wading Out the Storm: The Role of Poverty in Exposure, Vulnerability and Resilience to Floods in Dar es Salaam,” Policy Research Working Paper No. 8976, World Bank (July 2019), accessed July 28, 2021, Flood impacts are compounded by population growth, lack of adequate drainage, and the removal of green spaces, which inhibits stormwater absorption into aquifers.10Interview with representative from US Embassy to Tanzania, December 2020. Changing rainfall patterns are also impacting long-term water security. For example, the Ruvu River Basin, the principal water source for Dar es Salaam, is projected to experience a 10 percent decrease in runoff due to climate change.11Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, “Stocktaking Report for the National Adaptation Plan,” February 2020, 30, accessed June 18, 2021, percent20with percent20incorporated percent20consultant's percent20comments percent20(1)_Final percent20Draft_2.pdf.

Flood risk also originates from the ocean storm surge. Percent of metro area at risk scored as low risk (1.00), suggesting that compared to other coastal cities in East Africa, Dar es Salaam’s elevation profile makes it less susceptible to coastal flooding. Nonetheless, approximately 143,000 people, with $168 million in assets, still live in a low elevation zone.12Abiy S. Kebede and Robert J. Nicholls, “Population and Assets Exposure to Coastal Flooding in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania): Vulnerability to Climate Extremes,” Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, last edited January 17, 2011, Moreover, significantly higher risk scores for sea-level rise (8.20) and coastal erosion (6.34) indicate growing threats that could undermine the city’s future. Over the past 50 years, Dar es Salaam’s beaches have retreated several meters.13Kebede and Nicholls, 2011. The Kunduchi beach areas, for example, has been heavily impacted by sea-level rise, recording 200 meters of coastal losses, with the subsequent loss of homes, businesses, and public buildings.14Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, “Stocktaking Report,” 31.

Sea Wall in Dar es Salaam. Source: UN Environment Program.

Finally, although its contribution to national GDP has declined, fisheries remain an important sector in Tanzania. Nationally, it directly employs 170,000 small-scale fishers and supports four million people who rely on fisheries-related activities including fish processing and marketing, trade in fishing, boat building, and maintenance as a source of livelihood.15Wesley Kipkemoi Kirui, “Climate Change Impacts on Fishing in Coastal Rural of Tanzania,” Journal of Environment and Earth Science 5, no. 10 (January 2015): 31–41, accessed July 7, 2021, In Dar es Salaam, fishing is an important economic activity for all districts, with Kivukoni Fish Market serving as the primary center of fisheries-based trade.

Low CORVI indicator scores for the status of near (1.00) and offshore (1.00) fish stocks suggest that relative to other counties in East Africa, Tanzanian fish stocks remain sustainably managed. However, higher CORVI scores in the percent of fisheries certified as sustainable and a lack of fisheries enforcement capacity, along with relatively high levels of fish consumption, suggest that these indicators require continued monitoring.

Financial Risk

Dar es Salaam is the economic hub of Tanzania. The city sustains significant tourism, shipping, manufacturing, and agricultural industries, and contributes more to Tanzania’s national GDP than any other urban center. This economic strength also exposes significant vulnerabilities, including high reliance on climate-vulnerable industries and inadequate infrastructure that has not kept pace with rapid urbanization trends. That being said, low national debt increases the ability of the central government to borrow and invest in climate resilience.

  • The highest-scoring category in the risk profile, MAJOR INDUSTRIES (expert weighted avg 7.98) indicators reveal significant dependence on the port and shipping industry (9.33), tourism (9.07), and the agricultural sector (8.45).
  • The INFRASTRUCTURE category (expert weighted avg 6.50) shows high and medium-high risk scores in shoreline development (7.60), the proportion of wastewater safely treated (7.23), and the degree of compliance with solid waste management procedures (7.16), all of which compound flood risk in Dar es Salaam.
  • While the ECONOMICS category scores as medium risk (expert weighted avg 4.22), medium-high risk scores for GDP generated in coastal cities (7.48), informal economy (7.32), and urban unemployment (7.27) indicate vulnerability to external economic shocks. Conversely, low levels of national debt (2.00) suggest capacity on the part of the Tanzania government to withstand and recover from climate risks.

Dar es Salaam is an economic powerhouse. It is nearly three times the size of the capital city of Dodoma and contributes 17 percent to Tanzania’s GDP.16Gemma Todd, Ibrahim Msuya, Francis Levira, and Irene Moshi, “City Profile: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Environment and Urbanization ASIA 10, no. 2, 2019: 193–215. Tourism, shipping, financial services, and manufacturing are significant economic sectors, with much of the city’s economic activity taking place in coastal zones. However, this economic activity is threatened by climate change and the unplanned consequences of urbanization. In addition, flooding frequently causes significant disruptions, with citywide damage from flooding accounting for three percent of GDP in 2018.17Erman et al., “Wading Out the Storm.”

The Port of Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s most important port, handling 95 percent of the nation’s international trade.18Kebede and Nicholls, “Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.” It is also an important hub for the tourism industry, transporting tourists between Dar es Salaam and the islands of Bemba and Zanzibar. Although the port is relatively safe from flooding, pollution remains a concern. Specifically, pollution from port activities and its corresponding impacts on coastal ecosystems contribute to declining mangrove, coral, and seagrass bed coverage. This compounds flood risks by reducing nature-based defenses and contributes to coastal erosion.19Interview with representative from Women Against Poverty, December 2020.

Caption – Dar es Salaam Port. Source: Ungureanu Catalina Oana (Shutterstock).

Tourism is a cornerstone of Tanzania’s economy, contributing 17.2 percent to national GDP, employing over 600,000 people, and generating $2.4 billion per year.20Kizito Makoye, “Tanzania’s Tourism Sector Rebounds as Virus Fears Wane,” Anadolu Agency, last modified August 15, 2020, accessed August 16, 2021, Dar es Salaam is critical to the development of the sector, with the majority of tourists entering the country through the nearby Julius Nyerere International Airport. Dar es Salaam also houses a significant number of coastal hotels and facilities. This reliance is reflected in the high CORVI risk score (9.07). However, the sector is at risk from climate change. Retreating beaches, compounded by declining coastal ecosystems, are a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of the sector. The impacts of coastal erosion are particularly severe in the Kunduchi district, where beaches and hotels are disappearing as a result of coastal erosion.21Interview with representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021. Moreover, continued construction of coastal tourist facilities, reflected in a medium-high risk score for diversity of lodging types (7.15), suggests continued development in areas that will become more susceptible to climate change impacts.

Tanzania is heavily dependent upon agriculture, with 90 percent of the country depending on this sector for their economic or food security.22R. Kiunsi, “The constraints on climate change adaptation in a city with a large development deficit: the case of Dar es Salaam,” Environment and Urbanization 25, no. 2 (2013): 321–337, In Dar es Salaam and the surrounding metropolitan areas, urban agriculture forms at least 60 percent of the informal economy.23Jaya Shukla, “Promoting Urban Agriculture for Food Security,” The New Times, March 5, 2019, Primarily rain-fed, agricultural activity in Dar es Salaam relies on consistent and cyclical rainfall. Increasingly erratic rainfall, a reduction in moderate temperatures, and extended drought threaten livelihoods across the country. Climate risks to the agriculture sector intersect with Dar es Salaam in two primary ways. First, degrading rural livelihoods contribute to migration to Dar es Salaam, fueling urbanization trends. Second, climate change undermines urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam, an essential means of livelihood and sustenance for the city’s poor.24Interview with representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021

Comparatively lower, medium-high risk scores in near and offshore fisheries show that Dar es Salaam is less reliant on the sector than other East African coastal cities for its economic and food security. However, driven by the growth of the informal fishing economy and the consumption needs of a rapidly expanding population, an increasing number of nearshore fisherfolk are engaging in fishing activities.25Kirui, “Climate Change Impacts on Fishing.” This finding connects to the risk scores under ecological risk, which note higher levels of sustainability compared to other countries in East Africa, as well as current and future threats posed by a lack of enforcement and sustainability practices.

Risks to infrastructure are widespread, with at least medium-high risk scores for every indicator in the category. Compounded by unplanned urbanization and development near the shoreline is the city’s lack of reliable waste management infrastructure. In 2011, only 10 percent of Dar es Salaam’s population connected to the city’s sewage system. Further, the city’s solid waste collection and disposal services cannot properly manage 60 percent of its waste.26Kiunsi, “Constraints on Climate Change Adaptation.” More recently, in 2017, the National Environment Report noted that 70 to 80 percent of Tanzania’s mainland urban population live in informal settlements that lack appropriate infrastructure and waste management services.27United Republic of Tanzania, National Environment Statistics Report 2017—Tanzania Mainland, Government of Tanzania, Risks to infrastructure are reflected in a high-risk score for level of coastal development (7.60) and medium-high scores for the proportion of wastewater safely treated (7.16) and degree of compliance for solid waste management procedures (7.16). Due to this, many of the city’s residents dispose of their solid waste in Dar es Salaam’s streets, markets, rivers, and stormwater drainage channels. Consequently, many parts of the city and sewage system overflow during Dar es Salaam’s rainy season, spreading polluted waters around the city and contributing to the spread of water-borne diseases.

Vulnerabilities to existing infrastructure also compound climate risks to key industries. Dar es Salaam’s existing road infrastructure is inadequate, with only 25 percent of the roads in the city paved in 2011.28Kiunsi, “Constraints on Climate Change Adaptation.” In addition to its insufficient and poorly maintained roads, Dar es Salaam suffers from severe traffic congestion, with a considerable increase in the number of cars on the roads over the past few years. Recently introduced rapid bus lines have relieved some transit pressure. However, bus parking areas are at risk of flooding.29Interview with representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021. These compounding risks are also reflected in a medium-high score for commercial infrastructure damage from extreme weather events (6.97). Finally, relatively low levels of grid resilience (6.70) and irregular access to electricity (6.72) continue to hamper businesses and city residents.30Interview with representative from the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association, May 2021. While renewable energy projects, such as Generator Zero, are installing solar panels on public facilities and businesses, inconsistent funding and regulations impede further rollout.31Interview with representative from EnSol Systems, Tanzania, June 2021. This is reflected in the medium-high score for renewable energy uptake (5.54).

Political Risk

Dar es Salaam is one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in the world. Because of a lack of urban planning and housing deficits, 75 percent of Dar es Salaam’s residents live in informal settlements, often located in low-lying areas and susceptible to climate risks.32Kizito Makoye, “On Solid Ground: Armed with Land Titles, Tanzania’s Slum Dwellers Tackle Poverty,” Reuters, last modified February 5, 2019, accessed September 16, 2021, These risks are exacerbated by outdated infrastructure and declining ecosystems, as highlighted in the ecological and financial risk sections. Other key issues highlighted include a lack of adaptation planning and investment:

  • The second highest scoring category in the risk profile, SOCIAL/DEMOGRAPHICS (expert weighted avg 7.31) shows high risk scores for urbanization (9.48), urban population density (9.42), urban population (9.40), percentage of the urban population below 30 (9.03), and the dependency ratio (8.35), all of which reflect risks posed by rapid urbanization.
  • In the GOVERNANCE category (expert weighted avg 6.66), the high and medium-high risk scores highlight a lack of investment in climate resiliency development projects (7.87), low confidence in ethics enforcement bodies (7.07), and lack of confidence in national climate adaptation planning (6.87).
  • The lowest-scoring category in the risk profile, STABILITY (expert weighted avg 3.69) highlights a high degree of government stability (1.00) and low levels of social tension (1.00). However, a high-risk score for employment in agriculture (8.00) suggests that climate impacts could harm people employed in this sector and undermine the economic and social resilience of those who depend on the agricultural sector for their food security.33Five indicators in the Stability category were excluded because of a lack of data.

Urbanization is a key trend across the risk profile, contributing to climate and ocean risk in Dar es Salaam and reflected across high risk scores in the urbanization rate (9.48), urban population density (9.42), and urban population (9.40). While the most recent City Master Plan (2016-2025) highlights the opportunities that urbanization provides for economic growth and improved living standards, it also notes the need to expand infrastructure and public services to accommodate rising birthrates and rapid rural-to-urban migration.34Rosen, “This Tanzanian City May Soon Become the World’s Most Populous.”

Approximately 22 percent of the city is classified as built-up areas, and around half of the buildings are unplanned. Thus, much of the city’s expansion has occurred in informal peri-urban settlements (6.44).35Msuya et al., “Dar es Salaam: The Unplanned Urban Sprawl.” Although much of the housing in planned areas of the municipality complies with city housing codes, many other dwellings are constructed in unplanned areas with poor-quality materials that do not meet code, increasing the risk of flooding. This is reflected in a medium-high risk score for damage to housing from extreme weather (6.21) in the financial risk section. Further, vulnerability is exacerbated by a high dependency ratio (8.35) that indicates a larger number of dependents per household, which lowers the city’s capacity to withstand climate events. Although efforts have been made in informal areas of the city to link these areas to city infrastructure, these urban planning efforts have been hindered by a lack of coordination among city councils, utilities, and the central government.36Kiunsi, “Constraints on Climate Change Adaptation.”

Caption – Informal housing in Dar es Salaam. Source: Rob Atherton (Shutterstock).

High and medium-high risk scores for investment in resilience projects (7.87) and the national adaptation planning (6.78) indicate a lack of confidence from experts surveyed that current measures are sufficient to meet the challenge posed by climate change. Further, medium-high scores in civil society participation (6.02) and perceived level of transparency (5.45) suggest lack of confidence that the government has the human and financial capacity to meet climate challenges. This was reflected in expert interviews, which noted a lack of public consultations on ecosystem protection measures in and around the city.37Interview with representative from Women Against Poverty, December 2020.

Efforts to build resilience are further hampered by a lack of local planning, technical capacity, and financial gaps. For example, the Environment Management Act’s 60-meter rule prohibits building near the coastline in Dar es Salaam. However, a lack of compliance and enforcement has led to significant construction in areas at risk of flooding in Dar es Salaam.38Meeting with representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021. This is reflected in estimates that it costs US$500 million per year to address current climate risks, with a further US$150 million needed to enhance resilience against future climate change in Tanzania.39Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, The Economics of Climate Change in the United Republic of Tanzania. Report to Development Partners Group and the UK Department for International Development, 2011, Ensuring that local planning and regulations are adequately financed is important to effectively building resilience.

Finally, a lack of data prevented CORVI from generating all risk scores in the stability category. Nevertheless, high levels of employment in the agricultural sector (8.00) and its corresponding vulnerability to climate change could present secondary risks to Dar es Salaam, as highlighted in the financial risk section. Conversely, social tension scored as low risk (1.00).40Because of a lack of surveys, the level of social tension indicator was measured by the occurrence of protests and strikes as catalogued in the Social Conflict Analysis Database. For more information on indicators and empirical data sources, please refer to the appendix. While Tanzania’s democratic institutions have been in place since 1971, in recent years Tanzania faced significant challenges, including an increasingly powerful executive branch, limited civil society participation, and limited government capacity leading to low-quality public services. These difficulties are reflected in medium-high risk scores in the rule of law (6.67) and trust in ethics bodies (7.07) indicators. Despite these difficulties, the country has recently committed to its people and the international community to improve its democratic governance.41US AID, “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, Tanzania,” last modified August 16, 2021, accessed August 16, 2021,

The Status of Resilience Planning in Dar es Salaam

The government of Tanzania has made significant steps to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into its national policy and development framework. The National Climate Change Strategy, adopted in 2012, culminating in the submission of its Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015.42“Tanzania Submits Its Climate Action Plan Ahead of 2015 Paris Agreement,” United Nations Climate Change, last modified September 29, 2015, accessed August 16, 2021, This work has been accompanied by climate resilience programs for agriculture, health, and water sectors.43D. Amwata, M. Tumbo, C. Mungai, M. Radeny, and D. Solomon, “Review of Policies and Frameworks on Climate Change, Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security in Tanzania,” CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (July 2020).

Although the Ministry of Environment manages climate policy and urban resilience planning, implementation is spread across several agencies in Tanzania. The 1997 National Environmental Policy and the 2004 Environment Management Act require that the Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment (DoE) manage and oversee all environment- and climate change–related efforts. DoE is tasked with integrating climate change into national policies, and the National Environment Management Council manages enforcement of these policies as required by the Environmental Management Act. DoE also houses the Disaster Management Unit, which is primarily responsible for disaster risk reduction efforts.

In Dar es Salaam, multiple projects are underway to build resilience, several of which have received international support. In 2014, the World Bank undertook the Building Climate Resilience in Tanzania Water Sector project, which improved Tanzania’s urban flood risk mapping and helped cities engage in more effective disaster risk management.44ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program, “Tanzania: Building Climate Resilience in the Water Sector,” Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, last modified 2017, accessed August 16, 2021, In addition, the Tanzania Urban Resilience Program, established by the government of Tanzania in 2016 with support from the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development, enhanced urban resilience to climate and disaster risk.45World Bank, “Tanzania Urban Resilience Program (TURP),”accessed August 16, 2021, Finally, the EU, through the Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Dar es Salaam project, is working to help Dar es Salaam’s municipalities better design climate adaptation policies and better integrate them into urban planning.46Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Dar es Salaam, accessed June 25, 2021,

However, due to the centralization of climate resilience planning, capacity gaps at the subnational level impede local climate adaptation planning and action.47Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, “Stocktaking Report,” 77. Most of Tanzania’s national climate resilience initiatives and policies rely on a top-down process that could benefit from greater coordination between the federal and local levels of government.48Michal Nachmany, Policy Brief: Climate Change Governance in Tanzania—Challenges and Opportunities, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, October 2018, Furthermore, the city of Dar es Salaam has a fragmented governance structure, with multiple and overlapping local jurisdictions between the Dar es Salaam City Council and the five municipal councils—Ilala, Temeke, Ubungo, Kinondoni, and Kigamboni. This fragmentation can inhibit effective coordination and implementation of a holistic resilience strategy.49Meeting with representatives from the Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, conducted in May 2021. As a result of these limitations, existing climate adaptation efforts in Dar es Salaam have tended to focus on local projects within the city limits, which are not clearly integrated across other key sectors.50Stephan Pauleit, Adrien Coly, Sandra Fohlmeister, Paolo Fohlmeister, Paolo Gasparini, Getrud Jorgensen, Sigrun Kabisch, Wilbard Jackson Kombe, Sarah Lindley, Ingo Simonis, and Kumalechew Yeshitela, “Towards Climate Change Resilient Cities in Africa—Initiating Adaptation in Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa,” in Urban Vulnerability and Climate Change in Africa: A Multidisciplinary Approach, ed. Stephan Pauleit, Adrien Coly, Sandra Fohlmeister, and Paolo Gasparini (New York: Springer Press, January 2015),

The most recent City Master Plan (2016-2025) notes the importance of building resilience to climate change impacts and balancing natural and human resources to enhance the socioeconomic development of the city.51United Republic of Tanzania, “Dar es Salaam City Master Plan 2016-2036,” 1–245 However, there is currently no integrated coastal management program for Dar es Salaam, which is hindering the development of a holistic urban resilience strategy.52United Republic of Tanzania, “Dar es Salaam City Master Plan 2016-2036,” 31. Other notable gaps identified include limited financial and technical capacity to assess compounding climate impacts, the need for additional research to understand the climate vulnerabilities of the urban poor in Dar es Salaam, and the risks posed by development in fragile ecosystems such as wetlands, river valleys, and marine ecosystems. The most recent National Adaptation Report also highlighted that data gaps contribute to a lack of subnational climate change policies, plans, and strategy.53Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, “Stocktaking Report,” 77. Similarly, interviews noted that while some departments, ministries, and local bodies have created environmental desks to develop climate change policy, persistent technical gaps and a lack of financial resources impede the development of climate-resilient policies, frameworks, and budgets.54Meeting with representatives from the Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, conducted in May 2021.

Priority Recommendations to Build Resilience

Despite institutional and capacity barriers, Dar es Salaam has made notable progress in building urban climate resilience. Yet climate and ocean risks, compounded by urbanization and land-use changes, continue to increase. The most recent update to the National Adaptation Plan noted the need for updated vulnerability and adaptation assessments that are downscaled to local needs and impacts.55Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, “Stocktaking Report,” 76. The evidence gathered through this assessment is a first step in doing this, yet more work is needed to develop integrated strategies and implement projects that build resilience to the multidimensional climate risks facing Dar es Salaam.

The highest risks identified in the CORVI assessment are categorized under Major Industries (7.98), Social/Demographics (7.31), and Infrastructure (6.50). The analysis identified urbanization and high levels of shoreline development, excessive reliance on major industries including shipping and tourism, and risks to key infrastructure including the electrical grid and roads. Moreover, compounding impacts on vulnerable people and ecosystems, such as land-based pollution from key sectors and inadequate wastewater and solid waste management, are highlighted through high numbers of informal settlements and declining coral and mangrove coverage and health. These risks can begin to be addressed through the following priority actions.

Develop a holistic climate resilience implementation strategy across the land-seascape

Indicators, interviews, and analysis of resilience actions already underway in Dar es Salaam all highlight the need for better coordination in planning and implementation. In addition, high levels of ocean risks, including saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, the reliance on blue economy sectors, and risks to coastal ecosystems, point to the need to better integrate the seascape into urban planning.56Separate interviews with representatives from the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, December 2020, and representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021. Given the compounding impacts of these issues for flood and pollution risks in Dar es Salaam, implementation of the city’s master plan needs to explicitly integrate ocean issues and risks.

To ensure integration between national and the various city-level governing entities, such a process should involve primary national agencies, including the Vice President’s Office, Division of Environment, the Ministry of Finance, and the National Environment Management Council, local government actors including relevant municipalities and the City Council, civil society, and the private sector. This process will also help to disperse information about climate risks and promote the narrative that effective environmental and land-use planning is critical to building resilience, rather than obstructing development.57Interview with representatives from the National Environment Management Council, June 2021.

Finally, to ensure effective implementation, permanent coordination structures should be established. This is critical to addressing the compounding risks identified, ensuring a participatory stakeholders-driven process, and avoiding the dangers of maladaptation.

Improve and expand flood adaptation and resilience planning

Flooding poses a substantial threat to Dar es Salaam, particularly in outlying peri-urban areas. Underlying economic and social conditions exacerbate climate risks. Vulnerable infrastructure, inadequate waste management, population density, and unsustainable land-use practices were all noted as key factors.58Interview with representative from Tanzania Vice President’s Office—Division of Environment, June 2021. The city’s poor, many of whom live in these outlying areas, not only face greater flood risks, but are also less able to cope with flood damages. In addition, CORVI findings highlighted a growing infrastructure gap, which impacts flood resilience in two ways: first, inadequate drainage and waste infrastructure exacerbate root causes of flooding; and second, the impact of flooding on road, water supply, and electrical networks impedes recovery.59L. N. Sweya, S. Wilkinson, and G. Kassenga, Resilience Improvement Needs for Public Water Supply Systems in Dar es Salaam, Contributing Paper to Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2019, Waste blocking drainage and inadequate management of natural drainage were both identified as critical issues exacerbating flooding, particularly in low-lying areas near the coastline and rivers.

Work is already underway to build resilience, but more is needed to address these specific problems, such as moving informal housing out of harm’s way and upgrading existing housing to withstand climate change impacts. It is also essential to expand infrastructure to informal housing neighborhoods. Upgrading waste, sanitation, and drainage systems is critical to reducing the risks posed by flooding. Moreover, improving the resilience of roads, the water supply, and electrical networks has significant benefits to poor and marginalized communities.60Sweya et al., Resilience Improvement Needs for Public Water Supply Systems in Dar es Salaam.

Detailed evaluation is also needed on the impacts of infrastructure improvements to ecosystems, including nature-based solutions, prior to project approval, to ensure that infrastructure growth is in parallel with nature-based solutions. Measuring the economic value of natural infrastructure and integrating it into urban planning is key to ensuring that future development preserves and expands such areas.61Interview with representative from Center for Climate Change Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, April 2021. To save costs and further preserve the natural environment, efforts should also be made to extend waste management coverage to peri-urban areas, as well as to integrate alternative waste solutions, including organic waste and recycling, into city waste management.62Emmanuel Kazuva and Jiquan Zhang, “Analyzing Municipal Solid Waste Treatment Scenarios in Rapidly Urbanizing Cities in Developing Countries: The Case of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, no. 16 (June 2019): 1–21, accessed September 13, 2021,

Finally, priority actions should be taken to increase stability at the household level by expanding community-based finance schemes. For households, ensuring that financial resources are available to address flood impacts before they occur is critical. Community saving schemes and banking programs are two measures that help local communities pool financial resources and invest in flood protection measures, have been successful in helping vulnerable communities adapt and build resilience to flood risks.63Erman et al., “Wading Out the Storm.” Such schemes should be expanded, while ensuring that local program ownership is maintained.

Enhance the climate adaptability of key industries

The shipping, tourism, and agricultural sectors are especially vulnerable to climate change and comprise a large portion of Dar es Salaam’s, and Tanzania’s, economic output. It is critical to protect these industries from climate risks and ensure that negative environmental impacts are minimized.

Dar es Salaam’s port is primarily managed by the Tanzania Shipping Agencies Corporation (TASAC), which regulates marine transport in Tanzania. In 2017, an amendment to the Tanzania Shipping Agencies Act 2010 sought to expand TASAC’s regulatory control to reduce pollution from ships. In addition, Maritime Technologies Cooperation Centers Africa, a regional organization seeking to reduce emission from the maritime sector, has partnered with the port to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from its ships and facilities.64Clyde & Co LLP, “Amendments to the Tanzania Shipping Agencies Act 2017,” Lexology, last modified July 8, 2019, accessed September 13, 2021, Such efforts are worth noting and should be expanded to include further efforts to reduce local environmental impacts, with a focus on curtailing pollution runoff into the marine environment.

Coastal tourism is clearly impacted by climate change and pollution from unplanned urbanization and unsustainable land-use changes. In response, local government and private companies have begun to undertake projects to build resilience. For example, projects to build seawalls and groins, particularly along Kunduchi beach, have had some success. However, these projects are costly to implement and maintain, and often have corresponding negative impacts by contributing to erosion further along the coastline. As a result, an integrated strategic coastal environmental assessment is needed to incorporate various stakeholder and economic interests, including balancing hard infrastructure with natural infrastructure solutions. It is important to harmonize efforts between local governments, the National Environment Management Agency, and the private sector to blend financial resources and ensure that adaptations that benefit one area do not increase risk in another.

Finally, the CORVI assessment highlighted the importance of urban farming for livelihood and substance functions.65Mhache Patroba and Elna Lyamuya, “The Role of Urban Agriculture in Alleviating Poverty Facing Women in Tanzania: A Review,” Huria: Journal of the Open University of Tanzania 26, no. 2 (August 2020): 267–285. However, pollution and climate risks threaten the agricultural sector in Dar es Salaam. Moreover, unplanned expansion of urban agriculture into wetlands can also impede nature-based defenses if not adequately managed. Given its importance to the economic and food security of poor residents—and particularly women—urban farming should be more explicitly integrated into urban planning, allowing farmers to secure tenure and increase the economic value derived from this activity.66Leslie Mclees, “Access to Land for Urban Farming in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Histories, Benefits and Insecure Tenure,” Journal of Modern African Studies 49, no. 4 (2011), accessed September 7, 2021, More broadly, city planners can also incorporate these land features into city flood management.


Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaMombasa, Kenya
Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES)
Blue Ventures
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
German Agency for International Development (GIZ)
Institute for Climate Change Studies, University of Dar es Salaam
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Mikoko Ujamaa Community Org (MUCO)
National Environment Management Council (NEMC)
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)Tanzania Office
Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania
Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)
Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA)
UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Tanzania (FCDO)
UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
US Embassy, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UN Habitat
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Tanzania Vice President’s Office, Division of Environment, National Government of Tanzania Office
Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
Women Against Poverty (WAP)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)  
Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES)
Blue Ventures
Climate Change Directorate, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Kenya
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO)
Department of Physical Planning, County
Government of Mombasa
Department of Environment, Waste Management, and Energy, County Government of Mombasa Department of Environmental Sciences, Machakos University
Food and Agriculture Administration of the United Nations (FAO)
International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF)
Kenya Association of Hotel and Caterers (KAHC)
Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO)
Limited Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA)
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA)
Kenya Renewable Energy Association Miji Bora Project, COMRED
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Kenya Office
Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA)
Pwani University Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UN Habitat
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kenya Office
Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Choose Your Subscription Topics
* indicates required
I'm interested in...
38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea
South Asian Voices