Sustainable development is cure to climate related disasters in Kenya – experts

Friday, May 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Climate change. Photo/Courtesy

Climate experts are calling for nature-based solutions to address the current climate related disasters in Kenya as floods, landslides and mudslides continue devastating populations in the country.

Dr. John Chumo, and George Tarus, argue that the current natural disasters in the country have everything to do with degradation of land resources.

This, they say includes human encroachment on marginal and fragile ecosystems such as slopes; wetlands, and escarpments among others.

"A holistic approach is urgently required if land resources are to continue meeting the needs of the increasing population into the future. And we believe, sustainable development can indeed cure the recurring natural disasters in Kenya," they told People Daily

Chumo said the need for better land use management in Kenya must be taken into consideration, while settlement and urbanisation could be transformed through use of green technologies.

"This could also include adoption of green development pathways," Chumo, the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC), Committee Secretary said. 

He believes that proper land management has to start by every citizen respecting land zonation and embracing sustainable use of the same land.

"It is high time we realize as a people that economic development and environmental issues are inseparable," he said calling for harmonised  laws and policies governing the broader sectors of development. 

"For instance, if we need to manage and address extreme events that are interlinked with environmental degradation, there is need for wider approach in addressing climate change and its affiliations," he noted. 

On his part, Tarus,  the Chair, Scientific Committee, Forestry Society of Kenya said that based on the latest weather forecast reports by Kenya Meteorological Department, the heavy rains and the related damages are expecfted to continue for a long time.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep through the globe causing untold human suffering, social upheaval, and economic damage, in Kenya, the disaster emanating from nature’s wrath is raring it ugly head in form of floods, landslides and mudslides with the latest statistics painting significant losses," he said. 

According to the weatherman's forecast, heavy rainfall is expected to continue over several parts of the country.

He argued that that extreme climate events - although having devastating effects on almost all socioeconomic activities - can naturally be mitigated through adaptation of sustainable development.

"Sustainable development entails meeting the human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services based upon which the economy and society depend," he added.

A range of science report indicate that when the natural systems are still within their carrying capacity, society can still bounce back from a calamity as demonstrated by how communities were able to recover from previous floods.

Some of those devastating events that happened close to 10 decades ago include; theUhuru floods of 1963/1964, flood events of 1968, 1977/1978,1982, 1985,1990 and El Niño floods of 1997/1998 just but to enumerate a few.

"However, due to a multiplicity of factors that includes the impacts of climate change; the intensity and severity of the floods are overshooting measures put in place to mitigate against them. This can be affirmed by the devastating effects being recorded within Budalang’i area and the Nyando River floodplain despite the heavy investments in dykes in the past," he said. 

Chumo said the the current extreme flooding events across the nation, as well as incidences of landslides, mudslides, overflowing of dams could  become a new normal going forward. 

"Clearly, the water systems are  increasingly becoming vulnerable to climate change that has been exacerbated by a  myriad of physical features and social characteristics," he added. 

The experts are further arguing that in Kenya, for instance, land is under a set of pressures to; cater for an increasingly hungry population which demands not only more food, but also more resource-intense food. The other pressure is the intensifying competition for settlement, infrastructure development and urbanization.

"These worrying phenomena brings to fore the urgent need for an in-depth reflection on how human beings and nature relates, it is a clear manifestation that the risks associated with current development pathways needs to be swiftly addressed and reversed," Chumo added.

However, despite these new realities, Kenyans are yet to be fully awakened to the need for environmental consciousness. 

"This is evident in the ongoing environmental degradation, unplanned urbanization, solid waste mismanagement, encroachment on riparian lands and wetlands," he added. 

Therefore, according to Tarus, citizen awareness must be among the top priorities by both the national and county governments. 

"The citizenry should be provided with update environmental information through various media outlets or even public forums for better decision making. The concept of sustainable living should be inculcated into every facets of our lives," he added.

They want the government to enforce existing regulations; promote sustainable approaches in natural resource management and utilisation. 

"The food production systems could highly benefit if every household in the country embraced agroforestry," they concluded.

More on News