Mozambique faces enormous challenges
By Friedrich Kaufmann and Winfried Borowczak
Mozambique experiences two to three cyclones during every rainy season – from October to March. But Cyclone Idai had unprecedented intensity most likely due to climate change. Shortly afterwards, cyclone “Kenneth” followed and caused further destruction. The force of Idai was comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005.
The storm also revealed the political and institutional weaknesses that amplified the scale of the disaster. For example, the national weather service INAM had repeatedly pointed out the danger of a tropical storm two weeks before Idai. In the northern provinces of Zambezia and Tete, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe, there had already been damages and first victims of the storm.
The cyclone revealed the fundamental problems of Beira’s geographic location. When the city was founded around 1880 it seemed well suited for settling a few thousand people directly on the Indian Ocean. Today, Beira has almost 600,000 inhabitants. To consider the situation in German proportions, if the city would be located at the end of the Weser river in the North Sea it would be partially submerged in the Wadden Sea and surrounded only by tiny dikes and dams with an inefficient drainage system.
A simple reconstruction of the city, a few cosmetic measures on dikes and dams and a modernisation of the alarm systems in the river areas of the hinterland are not enough. The challenge is to protect the city permanently from the sea. It needs new, resilience-based urban and environmental planning.