In mid-March this year, Mozambique was hit by the devastating cyclone Idai. And last Thursday 25 April, a second cyclone, Kenneth, crashed into the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Ben Lamoree, process coordinator for the Beira Masterplan, is currently working with a task force of 23 in the large port city of Beira on a plan for the reconstruction of the city, made possible in part by the Partners for Water Programme. Idai caused a new reality to emerge in Beira. A harsh reality too, as suddenly a lot of money became available. Read his blog
"I was in Beira in February, busily working on the Beira Urban Land Development plans. The preparation phase was mostly financed by the Partners for Water Programme and the Dutch Embassy. We were making plans to run pilots for social housing and business park development in the course of this year. Then, in March, cyclone Idai hit and we suddenly faced a completely different reality. The economic damage, mainly caused by the incredibly strong wind, was enormous. But rain and high waves caused a lot of damage too. Fortunately, flood damage in Beira itself was limited. The drainage system, that had been renovated with substantial World Bank funding just last year, worked well. Luckily, from a humanitarian point of view, Beira was not hit as strongly as other parts of Mozambique where the human tragedy was infinitely worse. The second cyclone, Kenneth, then crashed into the northern province of Cabo Delgado late last Thursday 25 April, flattening entire villages with winds of up to 280 kph (174 mph). It also dumped twice as much rain on northern Mozambique as Idai did.
Beira was very lucky. A team made up of Deltares, Arcadis and Van Oord is investigating emergency coastal protection work right now. They found that there was decades worth of overdue maintenance and that this exacerbated the impact of the cyclone on coastal protection, that was already in bad shape. And equally important, Idai struck at low tide. If the cyclone had hit the city at high tide or even spring tide, the entire city of Beira would have been deluged by one-and-a-half metres of seawater. It would have been a terrible disaster.
The Netherlands already had a long-term relationship with the city of Beira so naturally the Mayor turned to the Netherlands and other EU countries to help, and to the World Bank to prepare a reconstruction plan. At the end of March, I went to Beira with a team of seven and a rudimentary plan. Our plan was to work on the preparations of a donor conference announced by the Mayor of Beira to be held at the end of April. That date shifted to the end of May in the first days that we were there. The national government wanted more time to work with the EU, the UN and the World Bank to assess the damage in a larger area. I am the team leader of the task force, which has since grown to 23 people. UN Habitat and the Arcadis Shelter Programme are also on board. The Partners for Water Programme are covering the Dutch component of the task force expenses.
The first thing we did was simply start mapping damage to vital infrastructure, coastal defence, sewerage, schools, hospitals, drainage, roads and of course housing. We did not have to do all this ourselves as we received a lot of information from aid organisations that came to work on the emergency. We brought all the information together to produce a coherent post disaster needs assessment for the city.
We are also making grateful use of the plan that was given to us by RvO.nl for the reconstruction of St. Maarten after the devastating hurricane Irma in 2017 in our Beira Recovery and Resilience Plan. Another report that was of great use was the Masterplan for Beira, prepared by Dutch organisations in the past. It helped us determine our approach to issues such as coastal defence and sewerage.
In the meantime, the city does not need to wait for our plan to be ready or for the donor conference. A lot of work is already being done to alleviate the needs. Through DSS water, the Netherlands is already helping get the drinking water supply back in order.
More funding will become available, including from the World Bank, to help with the aftermath of the two cyclones. The new World Bank President is in Beira this week and we expect he will not go empty-handed. It is, of course, ironic that a natural disaster like this leads to new opportunities. It is bittersweet because on the other hand, an ‘emergency window’ like this enables us to help make the city resilient and climate proof.
Under the motto ‘building back better’, an investment programme that is better than before the cyclones, will be introduced. It will include aspects such as cyclone-resistant construction with stricter guidelines. The fact that it appears that more financial scope has now been created for dozens of projects, mostly water-related, naturally also offers opportunities for Dutch companies and organisations. NWP will inform the Dutch water sector on these opportunities. But first, let’s prepare a strong and convincing Beira Recovery and Resilience Plan!"
The Partners for Water Programme aims to build water relations and collaboration between the Netherlands and foreign countries to contribute to sustainable urban deltas. The programme is jointly executed by RvO.nl and NWP.
If you would like to know more about Mozambique, please contact Maaike Feltmann, email@example.com.