Friday, September 23, 2011

Sinking city

Flooding commenced in the late eighties, but it wasn't until 2005 that it became a permanent problem. A working class neighborhood in the outskirts of Dakar is slowly disappearing into the ground. Gounass and its surroundings bloomed in the sixties, when many families came to live here from countryside, looking for higher wages in the Senegalese capital. Without proper urban planning, a neighborhood was built over sand, with no adequate plumbing or sewage system. The years have proved to show how short term thinking takes a toll on thousands of life's.

For the last six years, underground water has been seeping to the surface through the sandy ground, creating a perpetual flood. During the rainy season, this problem increases exponentially. Few buildings have cement foundations, and there is no proper canalization for all the water, thus buildings slowly sink into the soft ground. In the spirit of "taranga" (which stands for the warm-caring-hospitality and the capacity to help others) the youth gather on Sunday's to work on hand dug the canals; a desperate attempt to drain out the water from the homes.

Six years ago, as a short term solution, the state destroyed four large areas across the neighborhood, hundreds of square meters large. The Jaxaay Plan displaced the hundreds of families forty kilometers away, to a newly built neighborhood in a locality far from social commodities. Four deep holes were dug in the new lots, the basins would allow for the water to be canalized here, and from the basins, pumped into the ocean.

Most people don't have enough money to move, and are forced to live with the water in their homes. Neighbors with a little bit more economic power buy garbage and sand to elevate their floors, competing against the water to stay dry. The privileged can move to another home, but won't be lucky enough to be to sell their sinking property.

Malaria and hygienic diseases have been at an increase, due to the filthy water and human cohabitation. Septic tanks mix with underground water, proper working sewage for the bathrooms is more of a commodity than a given. Life gets increasingly hard, yet a proper solution seems far away.

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