When one human right trumps another: Water vs. property rights
by Teri Fikowski
Imagine two men knock on your door one morning and tell you they are pushing your property line back four meters. No consent, no compensation, and no discussion. They return two months later and announce they’re taking another seven meters of land.
That’s the situation for Devota Lyimo and her family living in Salasala, Dar Es Salaam. They’re among hundreds of residents living between the city and Bagamoyo who claim their property rights are being violated for an ongoing pipeline project.
The Dar Es Salaam Urban Water and Sewage Authority kicked off construction on a 56-kilometer Bagamoyo – Dar Es Salaam water pipeline in April, 2013. The goal is to replace the current three-decade old pipeline, in place since 1976, that’s riddled with leaks and aging equipment. The current line provides around 300 million liters of water a day to the city which doesn’t meet the daily demand of 450 million liters. The new line promises the ability to pump 700 million liters of water a day to the city in hopes of shortening the gap of water demand and water deficiencies.
Needless to say the project is one of good intentions and necessity.The problem for many is the pipeline’s path.
Many residents’ homes lay within the projects blue prints and claim they're loosing land or homes all together.
“One day it’s four meters. Then it’s seven. When will it stop? Maybe next it will be our home,” Lyimo worries. And her fear is only a stone throw away. Several of her neighbors have a large red “X” spray-painted on their houses marking their eviction.
“I’ve invested my whole life to my home. If they take it, I will have zero. I will have nowhere to go. Nothing,” she adds.
Lyimo and her neighbors don’t deny the water pipeline is crucial for the growing population in Dar Es Salaam. In fact they support the initiative to bring the resource within 50 meters of each street in the city, having a lack of water access themselves. But they are criticizing the lack of public consolation, information, and compensation.
However, according to reports on several occasions government and DAWASA officials have stated residents whose property lies 15 meters within the pipeline’s path have been informed and fairly compensated to clear way for construction.
Residents like Lyimo claim they've received no prior knowledge about the project and believe holding a community forum isn’t asking too much before vacating people from their property.
“That’s why we’re doing this now, we don’t understand. It’s already started and people don’t tell us anything” Lyimo shares.
The Kikodoni street chairman promises to bring residents concerns forward in order to find a fair compromise between the need for the pipeline project and residents property rights.
One thing everyone seems to agree upon is water needs to go to Dar Es Salaam. Ensuring citizen’s rights are respected in order to do so is proving to be another battle all together.
The project’s expected completion date is set for March of next year.