Troubled Water

The invisible enemy of a Tanzanian paradise

At the mouth of the Pangani river, in Tanzania, global warming is something quite real: you can literally drink it. The Indian Ocean is rising from decades, siphoning away fresh water and leaking salt water into aquifers and wells. Now this process is speeding up: a liter of water collected from the river may contain up to 2,000 milligrams of total dissolved solids (TDS), when the acceptable value for safe fresh water, according to World Health Organisation, should not exceed 800 milligrams. Even the taste is bad but locals, mostly fishermen, drink it slowly like a bad, dangerous medicine and, more and more often, they found themselves at the hospital with dehydration problems due to the contamination of the aquifers.

The government has set its own parameters to define fresh water, but invites the locals to move from the area and to go living further inland. Grudge and conflicts are growing in the town of Pangani and in the river area, anyway, as in the inland a fisherman can’t do his job, farmers and livestock keepers have their water-related problems too: many of them simple can’t afford to move away and the idea to build barriers to protect the wells from salty water is not yet on its way because no funds seem to be available.

The town of Pangani looks like a paradise, with palms and a slow pace life, but the ocean water already pushed crocodiles far from the mouth of the river, and the sand now shows the colours and a brightness that the elderlies do not recognise anymore – there’s a growing amount of minerals in the soil. There’s an invisible enemy going around in this beautiful side of the African coast, giving signs of its presence that few can read but which everyone started to hate.

( 2017 )