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Relocate people from mudslide prone areas once and for all

By The Standard | April 22nd 2020

Devastation and loss of lives from mudslides are becoming an annual ritual in parts of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. Elsewhere, areas like Murang'a occasionally experience mudslides.

On Saturday last week, 12 people lost their lives, 18 were injured and by yesterday, several people could not be accounted for after mudslides hit the villages of Kipchumwa and Cheptulel on the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. Reports indicate that at least 4,000 people were displaced by the mudslides.

The deaths occasioned by mudslides have continued to grow since 2010 when 14 people were killed in Kittony village, Marakwet East, 16 in 2012 and the more than 50 who died in December 2019 in West Pokot.

The trauma, loss of property and livestock are unquantifiable. They are also unjustifiable because if government took the right measures, such incidences can be precluded. Predictions by the meteorological department are fairly accurate. Advance warnings of heavy rainfall have always been given out which, coupled with repeated fatal incidences of mudslides, should have given those in authority ample time and reason to act decisively.

But for some reason or another, the government has kept on dragging its feet, offering tokenism here and there and waiting for the next tragedy. This cannot be allowed to continue. The government must take its responsibility to protect its citizens seriously.

The government should adopt a proactive approach, as opposed to being reactionary, and seek a permanent solution to this perennial problem. Moving people to firmer ground, away from areas where weak soil and rock formations, destruction to vegetation, tree felling and haphazard farming on slopes leaves the soil exposed, should be the ultimate target.

 However, in seeking to move people to safety, the government will face resistance, but it must remain firm. It will not be easy to convince people to abandon their ancestral land and start life afresh elsewhere, but it should be done.

These hurdles can be overcome through sensitisation and adequate compensation for those who would be forced to look for new land on their own. Reclamation of areas where people are evacuated can best be achieved through the planting of trees and vegetation to give the exposed soil adequate cover from heavy rainfall. The onset of rain should herald blessings, not destruction.

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