Coastweek -- Over
the last couple of weeks, I have concentrated on the rains and
the hazards it creates for motorist,
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
the power of water and our seeming unpreparedness from all
angles has led to multiple cases of both uncontrolled and
uncontrolled release of large quantities of water that have
resulted in fatalities and extensive damage.
concentration of local precipitation rather than the total
seasonal volume of rain is what has caught most agencies
unawares and unprepared. In past years we have looked to
associate the unusual with global extremes.
Nino” and “La Nina” effects that have impacted on Kenya had
first major effect in recent memory was the El Nino in 1997
predicted in many instances across the globe and our agencies
also knew about the impending precipitation.
our agencies seemed to ignore the warnings by the global weather
watch and were completely unprepared to deal with the what
on the Nairobi Mombasa road was washed away and caused days of
delays with passengers in both public and private vehicles
spending days on the road as the government scrambled the army
to go and erect a temporary bridge to allow for transport to
Landslides were recorded in many parts of the country and
flooding was seen in some of the more traditional parts of the
country and especially in then the Nyanza and Western provinces.
reaction by the traditional agencies and a huge public outcry
caused the formation of the Kenya National Disaster Operation
of years later, the government also established the National
Disaster Coordinating Committee whose role was to bring together
the policy and decisions makers at the highest level in
government to allow for fast tracking of decisions and also for
the release of resources for operations of the Disaster
principle we have all the necessary organs to not only respond
to disasters but hopefully to also minimise the risk of
have a responsibility for disaster risk reduction.
we have seen very little of this action and it is crucial that
this agency begins to discharge this very crucial
Unfortunately, every single government ministry and agency has
some kind of agency that is supposed to manage the potential
disaster within its docket.
management agencies include those for drought and disease
outbreaks especially communicable ones.
however seen the green shoots of success in that the El Nino
that hit the country in 2015 did not seem to create as much
havoc as what happened in 1998 and this can be attributed to a
better level of preparedness and response capability resulting
from the learnings of the earlier event.
major global weather phenomena happen roughly every five to
seven years so we are in a relatively safe period in as far as
global events are concerned.
the reality is that even though we are not seeing a major global
phenomenon this year we are seeing local aberrations of weather.
not unusual and the role of the disaster risk reductions agency
is to develop scenarios given the realities that have obtained
in Kenya and to then ensure that we put remedial actions in
this year we have had flooding in most parts of the country
causing damage and loss of life.
not as though we could not have foreseen this. Human
interventions and interference in many of the areas that
safeguard against flooding both flash and normal can be mapped.
a lot of time talking about the lack of tree cover yet this in
itself should have been a danger signal to the likelihood of
rapid clearance of bush and use of land for farming in areas
where there was no traditional farming in the past should have
sent danger signals about the likelihood of flooding.
the problem is also the rapid increase in built up areas which
also increases the chances of flooding. Let us consider
breach of a bridge in the Athi River area as well as the
flooding in the same area that caused houses in an adjacent
estate to be submerged was mainly as a result of the
developments in Kitengela and Isinya areas.
perennial problem of the silting and flooding of Mai Mahiu to
Narok road was worsened this year by the increasing habitation
of the eastern slopes of the Rift Valley.
deaths and displacements that happened on the lower Tana River
and Sabaki were known and the deaths could have been prevented
especially on the lower Tana as the sudden flooding was a result
of the release of water from upstream dams that were threatening
to break due to overfilling by the high flows of the rivers.
collapse of the Patel dam in Solai was also mainly caused by
upstream activity but could have been mitigated had regular
inspection of the infrastructure taken place. This caused
multiple deaths and damage to a lot of property and crops.
write, there is also the collapse of certain parts of the River
Yala embankments that are causing damage and flooding in those
areas and people are being asked to move to higher ground.
Ministry of Energy has warned – early enough this time – that
Masinga dam is likely to fill to capacity and that water would
then be released.
the best that could happen.
people are being asked to move to higher ground again but where
will they stay?
will happen to their crops?
amenities and investments?
measures do we have in place to mitigate this kind of situation?
agencies that are supposed to manage such disasters need to
seriously review their operations and preparedness.
are too many things catching us unawares and then when they do
the response has been wanting.
several days of flying over the flooded Tana river on
“assessment and reconnaissance”.
response has been very limited despite the fact that a lot of
money has been allocated to the agencies that should response to
reality is that precipitation intensity and spread is going to
change as climate change begins to bite deeper.
activities, planned or otherwise, will alter the behaviour of
water and this is reasonably predictable.
tools and the knowledge to understand and mitigate the changing
behaviour of water in response to our activities are available
and the Disaster Mitigation and Disaster Management Agencies
should come out and work with wananchi to analyse and put in
of life and property is painful and simply creates resentment
against government and it is best, in the national interest that
things that can be prevented with very simple interventions are
done and done swiftly AND regularly.
Kachumbari says, forewarned is forearmed.
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