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Publisher: Journals Gateway
Daedalus (2021) 150 (4): 48–63.
Published: 01 October 2021
AbstractView article PDF
Global climate change poses a serious threat to the water supplies of the world's cities. This is perhaps no truer than for Dar es Salaam, the largest city and commercial capital of Tanzania. What was eighty years ago a small town of a mere forty thousand residents is today the world's second-fastest growing city, with a population of more than six million. This growth has come despite a history of racist, colonial urban development and the inadequacy of its formal water supply, which services a fraction of the needs of its residents. This essay examines the development of Dar es Salaam's anthropogenic waterscape, or water infrastructure, and argues that the city's tremendous growth has come despite its inability to provide basic services. In the absence of reliable public water, its residents have adapted creatively, developing their own solutions in a way that has drawn on knowledge and practice from rural areas as well as new urban-centered strategies. This history of creative adaptation, and its benefits and drawbacks, provides a useful framework for thinking about the meaning of resilience in Africa's urban centers in an era of increasing climate uncertainty.