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Address perennial floods menace once and for all

By The Standard | May 21st 2016

The drowning of two pupils in Nairobi’s Kangemi slums should prick the conscience of the national and county governments on the management of flood waters across the country. Happening in the capital city, the incident is hugely unfortunate and depicts the lethargy in authorities to handle perennial floods to avert deaths and destruction of property.

Recently, Kenyans have suffered effects of flooding in Budalang’i, Nyando plains, Meru, Trans Nzoia, Baringo and Nairobi among many other areas. There have been mudslides in Murang’a and other areas. Millions of shillings have been set aside every year to mitigate the effects of flood waters. Indeed, some Sh6 billion was set aside last year to counter the expected havoc from El Nino rains. The national government, county governments and development partners contributed to the kitty.

The heavy rains have exposed Kenya’s unpreparedness to handle flood waters especially in Nairobi, the capital city. Hundreds of city residents have lost household items worth millions of shillings to flood waters flowing into their houses.

Many others have been stranded on flooded roads following clogged drainage systems. The multi-billion shilling Thika Superhighway was also exposed as it flooded, forcing motorists to use longer alternative routes to various destinations. Kenyan taxpayers must feel cheated if such an amount of money was spent on a road that cannot drain rain water properly.

For decades authorities have sunk billions of shillings into building dykes, gabions and trenches in flood-prone areas such as Budalang’i, but the problem persists to date. Why can’t we get it right and save hundreds of thousands of Kenyans the agony of dealing with flood waters? The authorities owe Kenyan taxpayers an explanation every time a person dies or property is destroyed by floods.

Successive years of neglect of the drainage and sewer systems, unplanned buildings, land grabbing and corruption have rendered majority of our towns vulnerable to Mother Nature. That is why tragedies such as the recent collapse of the Huruma building continue to expose Kenyans to preventable deaths. The Kenya Red Cross estimates that some 7,000 people have been rendered homeless by the current rains across the country.

Why should the government wait for flooding to happen and then respond? The authorities in flood-prone areas must seek long term, sustainable solutions to the perennial problems associated with heavy rains. The government must also consider investing heavily in rain water harvesting. It is unacceptable to have so much water during the rainy seasons draining into the ocean, only for millions of Kenyans to suffer the effects of drought a few months later. Kenyans deserve better from their government.

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