The El Nino weather phenomenon has created devastation all over the country during for the last five months. There has been damage to roads, bridges, railways, airports, housing, agriculture and health provision. Many people have been killed; 350,000 were rendered homeless. As this issue of TA goes to press (April 13) there are reports of a major disaster in the Merelani area in the Arusha Province with over 50 miners missing after torrential rains caused flooding and the collapse of tunnels dug in the search for the precious stone Tanzanite and gold.
Train services between Dodoma, Kigoma and Mwanza were suspended for weeks and, at the end of December, 400 wagons were stranded. Two key bridges in Morogoro were swept away. In February, 60,000 tons of cargo destined for neighbouring countries was held up in Dar es Salaam. In Bukoba 5,000 11ecta-es of coffee and ba~anas were reported destroyed Tobacco production was expected to fall from 42 million kgs in 1997 to 25 million kgs in 1995. Even the Batik clothes industry has suffered because of the lack of sunlight needed for drying in the final stage of production. Maize production in Rukwa Region was expected to be cut to 30,000 tons compared with the average of 50,000 tons normally obtained and cotton production in the Lake regions was expected to fall from 85,000 to 45,000 tons. Tourism was affected when the routes to the main national parks became waterlogged.
The first estimates of the cost of El Nino is some $1l7 million. President Mkapa went to Dodoma for a special meeting with MP’s on February 10 at which he announced that government expenditure had to be cut immediately. Seminars, workshops and symposia would have to stop unless they were donor financed, local and overseas trips by government officials would be severely restricted; there should be a reduction in the number of officials accompanying ministers to meetings of parliament in Dodoma; officers who had received loans for vehicles must not use government transport. President Mkapa appealed to donors to set up a Multilateral Debt Fund for the country to help the government pay for the necessary repairs and rehabilitation. The President wondered how Tanzania could be expected to continue to pay its enormous debts when the economy was unable to generate the necessary funds.
Rut it was not all bad news. With rivers flowing and dams filling, Tanzania’s chronic electricity cuts became a thing of the past and cattle ranchers were not complaining about the abundance of grazing following the rains. El Nino was also good for tea growers. Production is likely to increase from 23,164 kgs last year to some 25,000 kgs this year. And the Rufiji Leprosy Trust, while reporting three deaths and the whole Rufiji valley being like a huge lake, added that fresh fish was plentiful during the floods.