By Dorcas Sarkozy
It is the rainy season and like clockwork, Nairobians and the rest of the country are faced with an annual ritual:
Navigating flooded streets and the treacherous dirt roads; the latter in the rural areas.
Similarly, like clockwork, I await Jubilants to rope in RAO’s tenure as Minister for Roads as root cause of the flooding seen on Moi Avenue, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana , Sultan Hamud and elsewhere in Kenya.
We have patented mediocrity as a nation. Kenya owns the intellectual property on incompetence and accompanying acquiescence of said incompetence.
Why do I say that?
Because we repeatedly elect incompetent persons and in so doing, we are tacitly embracing and accepting their incompetent performance as exemplified by the recurrence of events that at a minimum, should be mitigated and made less frequent if not completely eliminated.
For starters, part of the reason water collects on supposedly surveyed and civil-engineered roads such as Moi Avenue, Uhuru Highway, Thika Highway etc. is because the basic maintenance of the roads’ drainage systems is not done – ostensibly by the local authorities. (Cue excoriation of RAO, Kidero & NASA in 3-2-1!)
I am going to go out on a limb and assert that this is not the first time the river has “broken its bank” thus flooding the bridge at Sultan Hamud along the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway.
Similarly, medouts that this is the first time the hard-working folks of Elgeyo Marakwet have lost their mango crop due to what The Star refers to as “the sorry condition of the Liter-Arror road.”
And don’t get me started on the plight of the rice farmers of JoKano when “aora opong” i.e. when Nyando River breeches its banks – near Ahero no less!
Beyond the aforementioned need to maintain and keep the drainage systems clean and clear of debris – paper, plastic bags, discarded debris etc. – we get into the more systemic/structural and design-related causes of the flooding.
And on these analyses, we all know Kenya as that hotbed of due diligence and adherence to strict protocol/standards on matters such as road construction!
As much as I sympathize with the farmer/s whose truck/s sustained damage while transporting produce near Arror and in Endo, I come back to a basic question I have asked repeatedly:
Why do we expect different results when we empower the same corps of leaders from yesteryears – the same periods we endured the same calamities – to do our bidding?
A fundamental truism is that water moves from higher ground to lower ground i.e. if there is a higher ground adjacent a lower ground, the lower ground is a lot more likely to experience floods.
Another truism is that humans, for all their intelligence (arrogance and hubris) cannot stop the rains nor the flow of water – from bursting a river’s banks and/or flooding low-lying areas.
What we can do, if we have the leadership, sense of prioritization and wherewithal is mitigate the impact of excessive water – which is what flooding is!
From the construction of retaining walls to the urban planning re: construction of roads, drainage systems etc., these require leadership.
We all are familiar with how some connected persons enriched themselves “selling charcoal” while others grabbed land from the environmentally-sensitive Mau Forest. We also know the less-than-optimum environmental impact study (EIS) that went into constructing the standard gauge railroad (SGR).
These events, as benign as they may have seemed, certainly at the time, have all combined to contribute to the deforestation of the vegetation that are an integral part of flood mitigation. Trees and vegetation prevent land erosion AND break the power of moving water.
So once again, our officials tell us that the county government will “deploy a team to repair the damaged sections of the road” and rather than wait for the Kenya National Highways Authority (KNHA) to do its job, “will build sections of the road.” – (Arror MCA Christopher Kibor).
Another one blurts out the obvious “Friday’s heavy downpour rendered the section of the road impassable.” (Makueni County Commissioner Maalim Mohammed)
And like clockwork, the president and his deputy bury their heads in the sand coming up every so often to eat meat – leaving it to their acolytes to “brame Raira for impending deveropment and maendereo”.
One last thing:
About 26% of Netherlands (Holland) and 21% of its population is located below sea level and only about 50% of its land exceeds one metre i.e. ~1yd. above sea level.
I am still trying to find out how many floods the country has had.