Rehabilitating Beira: towards a more resilient coastal city

Reconstruction of a cyclone damaged city in Mozambique

3 May 2024 by The Water Diplomat

The coastal city of Beira in Mozambique – the country’s second largest city - is currently undergoing rehabilitation work to increase its resilience to the impact of cyclones which regularly form on the Indian Ocean, and which have a major impact on infrastructure and livelihoods in Southern Africa. Following the impact of Cyclone Idai in 2019, the Municipal Council of Beira, with the support of the Netherlands government, UN-Habitat, and the Arcadis Shelter Programme, developed the Beira Municipal Recovery and Resilience Plan . This plan focuses on five priority areas of infrastructure development: coastal protection, drainage, sewage, solid waste, and roads infrastructure.  Within this, the Dutch engineering organization Deltares is supporting the city of Beira to develop a response to the annual flooding of residential areas due to intense rainfall. 

Beira is a rapidly growing city – the annual urban population growth rates have averaged 3% for the past four years, and therefore the city is set to double in size over the next twenty years. It is important to accommodate the new inhabitants and above all to ensure a safe living space for its residents. This is all the more so in view of the climate risks to which the city is exposed: in 2019, an intense tropical cyclone – cyclone Idai – made landfall directly at Beira, with wind speeds of 194 km/h and gusts up to 280 km/h leading to catastrophic damage to the city and the loss of 1,000 lives across Mozambique. The storm still ranks as the second deadliest on record in the Southern Hemisphere. An assessment team from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – the first team to arrive on site at the time - reported that 90% of the city was destroyed or damaged by the storm. The Municipal Recovery and Resilience Plan estimated that 70% of all houses had been partially (63,506) or completely (23,833) destroyed, alongside 176 municipal buildings.   

The city of Beira lies on the delta of the Pungue River, and the low-lying land of the city requires strong coastal defences as well as adequate drainage. The existing dune ridge along the coast is too low to provide protection, and the existing man-made defences have been damaged and eroded by the sea. The port of Beira dominates the economy of the city and is an important port for Southern Africa. The industrial area of the port requires 2,600 hectares of land to carry out operational and logistical tasks and host business enterprises. In residential areas, the drainage channels need to be deepened and connected to a retention basin covering some 150 hectares of space to absorb water in times of high rainfall. New residential areas need to be built on higher land to avoid the recurrence of the destruction to private property that took place in the past.  In order to create the coastal defences and increase the beach front of the city, sand will be dredged from the area in front of the port – which is currently restricting traffic into and from the port. 

With the support of the European Union and the French development cooperation agency AFD, 19 million Euros is being invested in the rehabilitation of Beria’s sanitation system. The wastewater treatment plant, severely damaged during storm Idai, will be rehabilitated along with its wastewater collection and transport network. The operational capacities of the municipal operator – the Serviço Autónomo de Saneamento da Beira – SASB will be further built during the implementation of this project. As a result, a functional sanitation service will be provided to 100,000 inhabitants of the city of Beira.