Government to forcibly move locals in flood-prone areas

Thursday, May 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Some of the 10,000 families displaced by floods in Budalang’i are evacuated to higher grounds. Photo/PD/HENRY ANDANJE

The late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai warned—years ago—that while nature is very generous, it is also very unforgiving; this famous quote has come back to haunt Kenyans with heavy rains leaving a trail of death and destruction.

Yesterday, the country was in a state of dilemma as nature’s fury continued to be witnessed with figures provided by the government showing that close to 200 people—34 of them in the last 36 hours—had lost their lives since the onset of rains in March.

Hundreds others have been displaced, prompting the government to start forcible movement of people out of areas prone to flooding after the Meteorological Department warned that the country would experience intensified rainfall in coming days. 

The statistics were announced yesterday by Devolution Cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa in a joint statement of six Cabinet secretaries at the Kenya Meteorological Department headquarters in Nairobi where he also asked Kenyans to heed the government directives.

“Please, if you are living close to a water body like the Trans Nzoia River, please move. Listen to what the government is asking you. County commissioners know where to relocate people,” said Wamalwa.

The destructive rains could not have struck at a worse time with the country battling the coronavirus pandemic. It has also coincided with the flowering stage—a period of hope for many crop growers. 

Government records show that more than 150,000 households have been rendered homeless after their homes were submerged in water and situation is worsening. 

Houses in Budalang’i marooned by floods following heavy rains that have been pounding the area. Photo/PD/VIOLA KOSOME 

The government was yesterday contemplating forcibly relocating hundreds of families living in “high-risk” areas in Garissa and Tana River counties. 

The issue has been compounded by rising water levels in lakes Victoria, Nakuru and Baringo while the red flag has also been raised for people living near mega dams such as Masinga and Turkwel.

“This morning we have reached historical figure of 1,057.86 above the sea level, maximum reservoir point is 1,056.5 so you can see it is above.

So it is a serious issue and we’re telling people downstream things are worsening and should relocate,” said Energy Cabinet secretary Charles Keter.

In Parliament, Minority leader John Mbadi asked the government to give floods a priority, adding: “Although we are in serious crisis there are areas in this country where people are dying from floods.

Over 100 people have died from floods, while Covid 19 has killed only 24,” he said.

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed accused the government of ignoring the plight of hundreds of people affected by floods. “If you cannot defend our people from floods, you don’t deserve to be called government,” he said.

Gilgil MP Martha Wangari asked State agencies to give the floods menace the same priority they were giving to the Covid-19. 

And, in what could mirror the sorry state of affairs in the country, an estimated 2,000 people living in various islands in Lake Victoria islands are staring at a disaster if they are not evacuated immediately.  

Remba, Ringiti, Takawiri and Migingo islands are alarmingly sinking under fast rising lake waters and consequently rendering populations homeless—putting their lives in danger. 

A further 300,000 people living around the shores and along major arteries feeding Lake Victoria with water have also bore the wrath of raging floods occasioning displacements and loss of lives.

Rivers Nyando, Yala, Nzoia, Kuja and Awach have all burst their banks causing untold suffering among populations and sparking fears of outbreak of waterborne diseases. 

Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo urged families residing in the islands to relocate to safer grounds before the situation worsened.   

It is estimated that since the water level started rising, more that Sh300 million worth of fish trade on the island has been lost.

Homa Bay County Beach Management Units chairman Edward Oremo said most fishermen have abandoned fishing because of reduced catch.

A similar situation has been witnessed in Lake Baringo where a family which has been living at Kokwo Island for ages has been displaced after water levels threatened to swallow the small island. 

More than 15 families were left homeless after their houses were washed away when river Tana (Sagana) burst its banks yesterday at Mjini in Kirinyaga county. 

 Naivasha sub-county commissioner Mathioya Mbogo added that the floods had left a trail of destruction in the area. He said several feed roads and bridges were washed away by water flowing from Kijabe forest 10kms from Mai Mahiu town.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui engaged the services of geologists from Geothermal Development Company (GDC) and Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) to inspect one of the roads after it developed huge cracks. 

The road, which has since been closed, passes through Koinange and Shabab estates in Nakuru West. There are fears the cracks were caused by a fault line.

“We will ensure people move away from all structures on the path of the fault line after the study is carried out. This is a very serious matter,” he said.

The heavy rains that are being experienced in North Rift region have disrupted the harvesting and transportation of farm produce.

Led by Joseph Cherono, the farmers have asked the national and county governments to repair the damaged roads to enable them access ready markets for their produce in major towns across the country.

“The rains have completely cut off Tot-Arror-Chegilet road in Kerio Valley and left a trail of destruction on more than 5,000 acres of land under mango crops that were ready for harvest,” said Cherono.

Hundreds of families in Malindi and Magarini constituencies of Kilifi county have been forced to abandon their homes following heavy floods.

  The Sabaki River burst its banks on Friday following heavy rains, spilling the excess water into the homes and farms and destroying property.

In Busia, more than 10,000 displaced families are staring at starvation after  houses and foodstuffs were swept away by raging floods.

Elsewhere, residents living around various dams in Laikipia county have been urged to move to higher grounds as more dams break their banks and start overflowing.

Gatirima dam in Laikipia West broke its banks on Wednesday posing a major risk to people living downstream following heavy rains that have been pounding various parts of the country.

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