Msimbazi River Basin City Park Project

Msimbazi River Basin City Park Project

Résumé en français

The Presidential Office – Regional Administration and Local Government of Tanzania a mené une étude pour lutter contre les inondations de la rivière Msimbazi dans le centre ville de Dar es Salaam, causées par des précipitations intenses et une urbanisation rapide. Cet article explore la manière dont l'étude a dépassé sa mission de lutte contre les inondations, le projet représentant un nouveau paradigme dans la conception d'espaces ouverts urbains. Le projet Msimbazi River Basin City Park s'attaque à une multitude de défis urbains à Dar es Salaam, tels que la mauvaise connectivité, le manque d'espaces verts, le stress thermique, etc.

Le projet a débuté par des charettes, impliquant 59 institutions, et c'est cet effort de collaboration qui a jeté les bases de l'approche transformative. L'approche interdisciplinaire a permis d'aligner différents souhaits et exigences, donnant lieu à une conception réalisable qui prend en compte le contrôle de l'érosion, les terrasses de protection contre les inondations, la restauration de l'habitat et la création de quartiers mixtes reliés aux installations récréatives du parc public.

The Presidential Office – Regional Administration and Local Government of Tanzania has conducted a study to combat flooding by the Msimbazi river in the city centre of Dar es Salaam caused by intense rainfall and rapid urbanisation. This article explores how the study went beyond its mission of addressing flood crises, the project, representing a new paradigm in urban open space design. The Msimbazi River Basin City Park project tackles a multitude of urban challenges in Dar es Salaam, such as poor connectivity, lack of green spaces, heat stress, and more. The project started off with charettes, involving 59 institutions, and it is this collaborative effort that laid the foundation for the transformative approach. The interdisciplinary approach made it possible to align different wishes and requirements, yielding a feasible design that addresses erosion control, flood-safe terraces, habitat restoration, and the creation of mixed neighbourhoods connected to recreational facilities in the public park.


Dar es Salaam is one of the fastest urbanising cities on the continent. With an influx of approximately 1000 residents per day in Dar es Salaam and about 80% unplanned housing, the daily reality is that the government is playing catch-up (Worldbank Blogs, 2019; Kombe et al., 2015). The unplanned nature of the city affects the availability of infrastructure and services. For example, residents of Dar es Salaam spend an average of 170 minutes commuting per day (mostly by bus, so-called Dalladalla) (PO-RALG, 2023).  Another shocking fact is that only 2% of respondents in Tanzania feels at home (sense of belonging) in the city compared to where they come from (FES, 2022).

Rapid and unregulated urbanisation is swiftly diminishing green spaces in the city crucial for water infiltration within and around the city (Figures 2 and 3). Moreover, settlements and infrastructure are moving into floodplains due to a lack of space and housing options. As a result, large areas of urbanised land are flooded during the rainy seasons, including the Msimbazi basin (Figure 1). Other factors contributing to flooding include climate change, narrow bridge underpasses and increased erosion and sediment influx due to deforestation upstream.

Figure 1: Floods in Msimbazi basin affecting Kawawa bridge and surrounding neighbourhoods (Source:
Figure 2: Challenges related to flooding in the Msimbazi Basin. Left: Deforestation leading to soil erosion and lack of water holding capacity. Right: vulnerable living environments due to urbanisation, infrastructure barriers and increased sedimentation. (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)
Figure 3: Rapid urbanisation in the Msimbazi Basin (yellow outline), Dar es Salaam (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)

Objectives of the study

The primary objective of this study was to mitigate the impact of flooding on settlements and critical infrastructure and promote resilient urban development in targeted communities within the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Area. The study employs  globally recognised best practice on integrated (storm) water management and flood resiliency using nature-based solutions in a low-income country context.

The approach: design charrettes

Responding to the flood risk in Dar es Salaam, the Msimbazi Opportunity Plan was developed through a participatory design process, known as a ‘Charrette’ (Figure 4).

PO-RALG and the World Bank jointly coordinated the Charrettes, undertaken from January to August 2018. Through the Charrette process, the Msimbazi Strategy and Management Framework (MSMF) and the Detailed Plan for the Msimbazi Lower Basin were designed by a group of main stakeholders over a six month period. The Charrette was tailor-made and developed by Ecorys, DASUDA, CDR and Wema.

Figure 4: Pictures of sessions during the Charettes. (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)

The Design Charettes took place in 30 work sessions, with more than 200 people from 59 institutions, such as community representatives, NGO’s, municipal councils, ministries, TANROADS, DAWASCO, Tanzanian Forest Service, National Land Use Planning Commision and others. Through the collective contributions of such a wide and diverse set of stakeholders, a unique opportunity was created to transform the Msimbazi Basin into a beacon of urban resilience.

The stakeholder Charrettes were based on the ACCA approach (Figure 5), the content of the different sessions being built around the following topics:

1) Understanding the challenges, complexity and its relevance for the Msimbazi;

2) Making an inventory of ideas from the stakeholders for possible interventions;

3) Envisioning Msimbazi futures

4) Designing the Msimbazi Strategy and Management Framework MSMF

5) Designing the Detailed Plan of the Msimbazi Valley

Figure 5: The ACCA process. (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)

The Charrette stakeholders engaged not only in formulating strategies for the entire basin but also dedicated significant attention to designing the Lower Basin. Central to the design process for the Lower Basin was the flood modeling, presenting outcomes reflective of heavy flood events. Additionally, the most efficacious interventions were identified in mitigating such events. This analysis served as a crucial foundation for the designs.

Further emphasis was placed on delineating desired functions for the City Park. Through collaborative design sessions, stakeholders mapped out the spatial positioning of these functions. This information was then organised into three distinct spatial approaches, yielding a range of alternative models for the Lower Basin: the Asset Islands, the River Front, and the Wetland Park (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Different alternatives for the Lower Basin developed during the Charettes. (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)

Subsequently, these alternatives underwent comprehensive evaluation utilising multi-criteria analysis techniques. The culmination of this evaluative process led to the conceptualisation of the Detailed Plan (Figure 7).

The Msimbazi Opportunity Plan represents a new paradigm in urban open space design, which recognizes that rivers are dynamic systems and emphasises the importance of adopting a holistic approach that involves collaboration between different stakeholders and sectors. The approach embraces natural processes to combat flood risk, recognises multisectoral needs, such as infrastructure development, and has been tailored to the local context. Additionally, the study is bankable, driven by enabling revenues from urban development, ensuring that the proposed solutions are economically feasible and sustainable.

Figure 7: The Msimbazi Opportunity Plan as a result of the charrettes. (Source: Ecorys, 2019)

The Msimbazi Opportunity Plan was followed by the Feasibility Study and the hydraulic model by the consortium of CDR, Norplan and DASUDA, which served as the starting point for the subsequent design works. During this phase a deep multidisciplinary approach was applied, collaborating in a team of technical, economic, social and environmental experts. To ensure seamless integration between the different design packages, an integrated spatial framework was developed.

This spatial framework (Figure 8) was designed to facilitate collaboration and communication between specialists from all relevant disciplines, and weekly design meetings with the international and local experts and staff were held to secure correlation between design tasks. Specific topics were addressed in separate design meetings.

Figure 8: Spatial Framework for the Lower Msimbazi Upgrading Plan. (Source: CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA, 2019)

Results and findings

The study has led to several key results and findings.

First, the study has demonstrated that an integrative and multi-sectoral approach to flood management in a low-income country context leads to a comprehensive flood management strategy that creates an enabling environment for resilient urban development. The participatory design process, crucial for commitment and a shared vision for the project, was tailor-made, and it was based on the ”Design Charrette” methodology.

Second, the study showed that the Dutch ‘Room for the river’ approach can be adapted to the context of an emerging African city like Dar es Salaam. It has led to innovative results including the reuse of excessive sediments in the basin to restore the riverbed, floodplains and to build terraces (Figures 9 and 10). The flood-safe raised terraces will be used for a 200 ha public city park, urban agriculture, and urban development, creating much-needed housing stock in all income fields (ca. 80 ha of developable area).

Figure 9: Main concept of the terrace-design at locations where currently floods occur (a), cut and fill of dredged material from the river channel with dredging and maintenance used to build the terraces (b), with safe locations for urban areas (c). (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019)
Figure 10: Visualisations of rehabilitated Lower Msimbazi Basin. (Source: Ecorys et al, 2019 and DASUDA)

Third, the study demonstrates nature-based solutions such as vegetated erosion protections for the terrace banks (ca. 35km), ecological rehabilitation of the floodplains, planting native trees and mangrove restoration. Additionally, the City Park features mostly unpaved surfaces, with 4,000 predominantly native trees and 80,000 square metres of forested areas to minimise the heat island effect and improve air quality and micro-climate on a regional level (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Designs of the City Park including multiple functions, bank protections, ramps and stairs. (Source: CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA, 2022)

Fourth, the design by DASUDA’s landscape architects of VE-R resulted in the continent’s largest city park, which integrates many functions to foster ownership and sense of belonging, such as sports- and playfields, regulated urban farming, and a festival terrain for social and cultural events, located at the old Simba and Yanga sports fields. It also provides 15,000 new homes in the flood resilient urban areas and a network of safe cycling and pedestrian paths with five bridges and boulevards connecting surrounding neighbourhoods (Figure 13). With a total area of 400 hectares, the park not only enhances the city’s resilience to extreme weather events but also provides a crucial green public space for its 6 million inhabitants. The project also addresses critical infrastructure needs, such as the New Jangwani Bridge (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Msimbazi River with the New Jangwani Bridge and festival terrain in the background. (Source: CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA, 2022)
Figure 13: Non-Motorised transportation routes in the Lower Msimbazi valley including five pedestrian bridges. (Source: CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA, 2022)

Fifth, the study shows that a collaborative vision and well researched and designed feasibility study can lead to funding for implementation. Having been endorsed by the Tanzanian government, the World Bank (International Development Association), Dutch Government (Invest International) and Spanish government provided a loan of $260 million budget for implementation.


Overall, the study’s innovative and integrative approach has led to the creation of a sustainable and resilient flood management system that also promotes economic development and social welfare. The project is expected to bring numerous benefits to the city of Dar es Salaam, including improved flood protection, ecological preservation, green spaces, and opportunities for recreation, urban agriculture and housing development (Figure 14). The project is set to be the first river rehabilitation initiative of its kind on the African continent. The project will be followed up by supervision and design services this year in different packages, including earthworks and redevelopment of urban and landscape (park) design.

Figure 14: Artist's impression of the core area of the Msimbazi City Park. (Source: DASUDA)


CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA (2022) Lower Msimbazi Upgrading Project. Detailed Engineering Design report. Package 3 – Earth Works and Bank Protection for the Msimbazi Lower Basin. PO-RALG, Tanzania

CDR, NORPLAN and DASUDA (2022) Lower Msimbazi Upgrading Project. Detailed design specifications. Package 4 – City Park Design. PO-RALG, Tanzania

Ecorys, DASUDA, CDR and Wema (2019): Msimbazi Opportunity Plan -Transforming the Msimbazi Basin into a Beacon of Urban Resilience – Volume A – Strategy and Management Framework. World Bank Tanzania

Ecorys et al (2019): Msimbazi Opportunity Plan – Transforming the Msimbazi Basin into a Beacon of Urban Resilience – Volume B – Detailed Plan for the Lower Basin. World Bank Tanzania

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (2022) The urban dream and the realities of rural to urban migration in East Africa. ISBN 978-9913-9927-7-0

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