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How waterway encroachment is worsening the impact of floods

In many areas severely affected by the ongoing floods across the country, a significant number of houses are almost submerged.

The death toll from the floods rising.

As the heavy rains continue, government data shows that the nation has so far lost 228 lives to the floods.

A spot check by Nairobi News shows that some houses in Nairobi and Kiambu County, which have been badly affected, were built on riparian land or encroached on waterways, paths and streams.

For example, in Zimmerman, Githurai, Kasarani and Mwiki, the prolonged heavy rains have caused waterways and paths to pass right next to some houses.

Some of these are seasonal streams that drain water when it rains and connect to the main rivers.
This suggests that landowners may have encroached on the waterways.

“Some houses, especially residential ones, have been built right next to streams and rivers,” a commercial house owner in Githurai 44, Nairobi, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nairobi News.

waterways at Zimmerman
Houses built next to waterways at Zimmerman and Githurai 44, Nairobi. PHOTO|SAMMY WAWERU

In Zimmerman, for example, our spot check revealed several buildings built next to waterways.
The river that separates Githurai 44 and Zimmerman along Kamiti Road is a clear example of this, as commercial and residential buildings have been constructed next to it.

“Defying nature is very difficult. If you encroach on space meant for a river, heavy rains will reclaim it with floods. This is what is happening in most parts of Nairobi,” says Mathews Wanyama, a Nairobi resident who was forced to vacate a plot of land near a river.

The situation in Nairobi and Kiambu counties mirrors that in many urban areas and towns across the country.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei recently made comments that caused uproar, blaming Nairobi’s washed-away houses on property investors encroaching on riverside land and banks.

The outspoken politician, who is part of Kenya’s Kwanza government, defended Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja against accusations that he had overlooked poor road and drainage infrastructure.

“I am surprised that people are saying there are floods. How can there be floods when people have built on waterways and roads?” Mr Cherargei asked.

The lawmaker, a close ally of President William Ruto, insisted that it was unfair to blame Sakaja or other county bosses for the floods.

“Let’s blame the right thing; the water is reclaiming its path,” he said.

The government has ordered people living near rivers, riverbanks and low-lying areas to leave because of the flooding.

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