Tag Archives: Low Carbon Infrastructure

An experience of Dar es Salaam bus rapid transit system – DART

Simon Batchelor of Gamos writes on his experiences with the Dar Es Salaam rapid transit system (the DART).

When SAMSET started in 2014, its first network meeting was in Dar Es Salaam alongside an ICLEI conference.  At the conference there was an offering by the mayor of Dar for attendees to have a field trip to see the Dar es Salaam bus rapid transit system called DART.  At that time there was little more than road works to see, but what was impressive was the ambition to carve out whole highways that would be bus only roads.

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Morocco BRT terminal in Dar Es Salaam. Image: Simon Batchelor

Like most city wide infrastructure projects, the system has been in the planning for more than a decade.  Discussed in 2003, JICA encouraged Dar municipality to consider the system, and designs started in about 2005.  Consultations with the public and those affected by the construction, social and environment impact studies, ongoing economic feasibility studies all take time, so it wasn’t until 2012 that the road works started to appear.  It will eventually be 6 phases, but phase 1 was completed in April 2015 (about 6 months after our first network meeting – so we didn’t get to ride it then).

When looking for some of the facts surrounding the system, I came across a document – “What necessitated establishment of a BRT system in Dar es Salaam?”.  Their answer…”When you have a swelling city population and you find yourself in the teeth of agonizing transport problems and hitches, the logical safety valve is to have a type of public transport that uses a passenger medium uninterrupted. As the name suggests BRT is a mode of public transport that uses rapid trunk buses. BRT is a huge-capacity transport solution to public transport problems the City of Dar es Salaam faces. The BRT system operates in a way quite similar to a tramway. In the latter passengers board trams while in the former passengers ride on huge buses plying on exclusive lanes.”  (My emphasis)

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Interior of one of the DART buses. Image: Simon Batchelor

So when we were in Dar for other business last week, we took the opportunity to ride the buses.   Phase 1 is said to be a single 23 km line from a station called Kimara Terminal down to the CBD.  However we found ourselves at the end of a branch line, at Morroco Terminal.  The system is said to have cost around $180 million so far.  Since there are branches one has to choose the right bus. We got on at Morroco, and were advised to take the No 3 bus in order to get to the Zanizbar ferry terminal.

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Proposed full route of the DART. Image: http://ansoncfit.com/wp-content/uploads/DART-Phase-1-e13033701609191.png 

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Citizens riding the DART bus. Image: Simon Batchelor

It runs some 140 Chinese made buses that in themselves are unusual.  Each station or terminal sits raised at about stomach height.  The buses have floors and doors at that height on the right hand side.  On the other side for emergencies they have one door that has steps down to road level – mainly for the driver since no one ever gets on that left hand side.

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Bus terminal in Dar Es Salaam. Image: Simon Batchelor

The terminals have gates and one purchases either a seasonal ticket and gets a Contactless smart card or at the counter and gets a printed ticket with a bar graphic.  Placing the ticket under the gate scanner gets you through the gate or like many other rapid transport systems in cities one taps the card and the price of the journey is taken from it.  At the moment there are staff to help people get through the gates as the whole system is still being nurtured among the general population.

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Passengers using a ticket turnstile. Image: Simon Batchelor

We entered the bus at one end of the line (Morroco), and found a clean air conditioned No 3 bus that would not have felt out of place in any modern bustling city.  By mid journey the bus was full and the heat radiated by so many bodies had overwhelmed the air conditioning and people had opened the windows.  This was not rush hour but was middle of the day, so I can imagine it gets pretty cramped at peak times.  However while it declined in comfort by the end of the journey, it was indeed quick.   We had sat in a taxi the day before for an hour in a very slow moving traffic jam; this trip took us only 20 minutes.  It felt impressive to look ahead of the bus and see the completely open highway.

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Passengers on the DART. Image: Simon Batchelor

We have talked a lot in this blog about the growing needs of municipalities, and SAMSET is focused on long term solutions.  Dar es Salaam is a fast growing commercial capital, producing 70 percent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product and is the hub of economic activity with an estimated daytime population of close to six million.  Analysis in 2014 showed that some private 5,200 passenger buses were operating on the city roads, and traffic congestion was already having an impact on the economic well-being of the city.  A metro was not possible, and the rapid bus system seemed viable.  It is said it will transport 300,000 a day in this interim phase.

Having now ridden the system, I can see how it can avoid the traffic problems.  I think it probably already gets overwhelmed in rush hour and be uncomfortable to ride at those times (much like most mass transit systems in most capital cities!  I try to avoid the London underground at peak times!).  I wish the municipality of Dar the best for its subsequent phases and will be interested to see its longer term use of lower carbon buses.

It is Time to Pay the Climate Debt: Financing a Low-Carbon Urban Africa

Johnathan Silver from Durham University highlights the flaws and limitations of current carbon financing mechanisms, and the pressure they put on an African continent at the forefront of climate change.

Even though sub-Saharan Africa has contributed little to historic Green House Gas emissions, a burgeoning body of research is pointing out that the continent is on the frontline of climate change dynamics and as a result facing multiple infrastructural pressures across an urbanising region.

It is an issue that is of concern to African leaders with the Vice-President of Tanzania, Mohamed Gharib Bilal expressing reservations at the recent ICLEI Local Climate Solutions conference in Dar es Salaam. In the opening session of the conference, he argued that the global response to climate change must be fair, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities that would put the emphasis on industrialised countries to finance a low carbon urban future and support the separation of growth from carbon and wider resource intensity in African cities. Yet these commonly held views on the continent and beyond seem to be having little effect on the slow, painful process of financing low carbon infrastructures and a green economy in Africa.

This climate change driven, energy, resource and development crisis is not some imagined future but rather taking place in the here and now. Reflecting on these relationships between climate change, low carbon imperatives and infrastructure geographies from across urban Africa generates a critical question: Where is the financing coming from to transform energy systems that respond to low carbon and developmental objectives and fund the plethora of strategies and plans proposed over the last decade?

The prognosis is not an optimistic one. The failure of historic polluters to offer the necessary finance, technology transfer and solidarity highlighted by the Tanzanian Vice President as crucial to a low carbon, resource efficient urban future is achingly visible. The options out there now for African cities limited, full of contradictions and characterised by the dominance of carbon markets. Speakers at the ICLEI conference sought to help city policy makers navigate the Byzantine nature of market-based carbon financing, used (rare) case studies of success stories for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and sought to draw some hope from a thoroughly discredited financing system. Yet these voices seem to be a minority as a growing consensus rejects the market rationalities embedded in carbon financing with a coalition of activists, academics and policy makers highlighting what seems like an endless number of problems with financing mechanisms such as the CDM.

These critiques of carbon financing cover a series of issues from the privatisation of the air and the atmospheric commons through to the non-linearity of climate change. The almost perverse notion that polluters are being rewarded under these market conditions, together with widespread examples of fraudulent behavior seems to reflect the wider flawed logic of relying on the market and corporations to address socio-environmental conditions. Work by researchers in cities such as Durban show that cities with carbon market-financed projects are often positioned around mega-sized waste to energy technologies that are having devastating social and ecological consequences for local communities. Price fluctuations, speculative behaviours and the post-2008 crash of the carbon price have illustrated that these mechanisms are even failing on their own (market) logics and terms, reflecting the wider contradictions of global financial markets, derivatives and such like. Beyond these extensive general critiques there are some very real distribution inequalities to the current financing across carbon markets that suggest even if these wider flaws didn’t exist then this form of financing would marginalise African cities in these global flows of infrastructure investment. Taking the CDM as an example we can see that the vast majority of financing has both a regional and a non-urban bias that leaves urban Africa on the margins.

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So while African cities have been promised the fruits of the carbon markets in reality such projects make a tiny and insignificant part of infrastructure investment through the CDM. There are various discourses emerging from organisations such as the Cities Alliance and the World Bank that seek to ‘get cities prepared to attract carbon finance’ yet previous experience would suggest that such preparations are likely to include energy sector liberalisation, policy reform and cause future difficulties for African cities to address climate change, poverty and other imperatives.

These series of problems, flawed logics and failures characterising carbon financing are not going to address the energy, climate change and development challenges facing urban Africa. So where does this critique of carbon markets and current financing landscapes leave cities in terms of financing low carbon, resource efficient urban futures? As the Vice President of Tanzania made clear in his speech, industrial countries must pay and there must be an equitable and fair way to finance the transformation of infrastructure across urban Africa. This is financing based on the idea of climate debt, of paying for the historical pollution of the atmosphere and offering an alternative to the failed logics of markets in addressing these global inequalities that continue to characterise relationships between the continent and the North.

The need for municipalities across urban Africa to instigate significant investment programs becomes ever more important to address climate change, low carbon imperatives and the multiple development challenges facing these spaces of poverty and inequality. Yet, as the ICLEI conference illustrated again, there seems little in the way of alternatives to the limited, compromised and hopelessly flawed carbon financing mechanisms as countries of the North fail to undertake their historic responsibilities. It is time to pay the climate debt and support African cities to undertake different trajectories from the resource intense urban systems of the North. Many of these cities have yet to construct the required infrastructure systems needed over the next century, providing a limited window of opportunity to build a low carbon, resource efficient and fair urban future. The time for the global North to finance these transformations is now.

This blog is also available on the London School of Economics website and the Situated Urban Political Ecologies platform.