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How poor drainage systems put urban areas at risk of flooding

Over 33 counties are reeling under the devastating effects of floods that have led to the loss of more than 228 people and wreaked havoc across the country.

This loss of life and destruction of property has forced the government to forcibly evict people living in flood-prone areas.

Even as the government works to mitigate the effects of the floods, poor drainage systems have emerged as one of the main reasons for the disasters. Nairobi is one of the worst affected counties, with slums and suburban areas particularly vulnerable.

In addition, some suburban areas were also affected.

A closer look at the worst affected areas reveals that the lack of proper drainage systems is to blame.

“In most cases, floods find their way into houses because of inadequate or poorly maintained drainage systems. When streams overflow, they wreak havoc,” says Charles Munene, a caretaker in Githurai, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Pointing to one of the commercial flats he manages, Mr Munene attributes the challenges faced by urban dwellers to poor drainage systems.

A house in Zimmerman
A house in Zimmerman, Nairobi, was flooded due to poor drainage in the area. PHOTO|SAMMY WAWERU

Apparently, the drainage systems are in disarray.

As a result, some houses are submerged in water, while others were washed away.

Roads face a similar crisis as many were designed without proper drainage systems. These systems are also blocked by littering.

For example, the Thika Super Highway, one of the largest dual carriageways in East and Central Africa, has been in the public eye for the past two weeks due to flooding in some sections.

The underpass linking Kahawa Sukari and Kenyatta University was hit by heavy rains, rendering the road impassable.

Drivers spent hours waiting for the water on the road to recede.

“Infrastructure such as roads and residential areas are critical to overcoming the challenges we face as a country,” says engineer Joseph Mwangi.

Mr Mwangi, an experienced civil engineer, stresses that while both the national government and counties are working to mitigate the effects of flooding, they need to reassess road and housing infrastructure, including drainage systems and pipelines.

“This should be discussed, otherwise we will continue to suffer from flood devastation,” warns Mwangi.
He advises that seasonal streams and rivers should have strong and solid bridges.

For example, Nairobi County Chief Executive Johnson Sakaja reports that 17 bridges were washed away.

“We are in the process of rehabilitating them,” the governor announced during this year’s Labour Day celebrations.

Cities, urban areas and towns are the hardest hit by the floods.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) warns that heavy rains will continue for several days.
People are being warned not to cross flooded or swollen rivers and streams.

Those living in low-lying areas and valleys are advised to move as soon as possible to avoid further loss of life. Loss of livestock and property has also been reported.

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