Who’s to blame for last week’s flooding?


A week after major flooding around the country but especially in Casablanca, even Le Matin is critical of the city’s and the Wilaya’s (county, kind of?) “non-strategy” in the face of natural disaster.

Mayor Sajid continues to say not only that the city couldn’t have prepared for last week’s flooding, but that a plan cannot be put in place: “We can’t anticipate these kinds of situations.” (“On ne peut pas se projeter dans des situations pareilles.”)

Not true, according to an opinion piece on the same day in Le Matin by Youssef Chiheb, director of the “Urban Social Engineering” Masters program at l’Université Paris XIII. He suggests adding a disaster plan into the Plans de Développement Communaux (PDC) of every Moroccan city, similar to protocols put in place in Romania, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Although Chiheb’s piece overtly offers suggestions for a better disaster response on the part of the city, what’s most striking about his piece is his criticism of the residents who make the exact same claim: that the government’s response to last week’s floods fell short.

“The fly-by reports on television or in the press show the same images of devastation, disorganization, impotence of municipal authorities and improvisation of state services. These same sources summarize a public opinion that is always demanding of and accusing, whether rightly or wrongly, the authorities. “There has to…All we need is to…It’s the state who…It’s the elected representatives who…”. Here is a discourse that is obsolete, conformist and sterile because it never accounts for individual responsibility in this recurring disaster. If the evacuation channels for rainwater are inadequate because they’re dilapidated and outdated, it’s also the fault of the populace, who fills and blocks the gutters with food waste. In every neighborhood, the gutters are clogged. Water flowing in the streets accumulates and follows topographical inclines. As a result, large avenues, radials, and highways on an incline become the [hydrographical] beds of artificial streams.” (emphasis mine)

Casablanca certainly has a waste disposal problem. No need to be a trained engineer to observe that there is a lot of trash in the street. But we’re not just talking “déchets agroalimentaires,” as Chiheb says, but also trash in garbage bags. Why is this distinction important? Because people aren’t just throwing their banana peels on the sidewalk, they’re also trying to dispose of trash in a more organized way.

Implicit in the whole “déchets agroalimentaires” comment is something I hear very often about Moroccan cities. In the past few decades, there’s been a huge influx of immigrants from the countryside: pronounced l3arobia, and often with a hint of contempt. Countryfolks think they can just live in the city the way they lived in the countryside, goes the common complaint, to the detriment of the entire city.

It would be disingenuous to say, for the sake of political correctness, that individual residents don’t have a responsibility to adjust their behavior. But if the municipality fails to provide support or even outreach, we can’t claim that residents are to blame. Especially since those who might be considered most “guilty” of disposing their trash in the street are likely also to be those who suffer the most when the streets flood.

To read more:
Le Conseil de la ville dépassé par les évènements (Le Matin, lundi 6 Décembre)
Opinions & Débats: La prévention contre les risques de catastrophes naturelles doit être intégrée dans les plans communaux évènements (Le Matin, lundi 6 Décembre)

See also earlier post: Casa, under water

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Filed under bidonvilles, Casablanca, Immigration, Morocco, urban development, Urban Morocco, urbanisation

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