LANDSLIDES

Grow more trees to lessen flooding

We need to acknowledge their significance beyond economic value.

In Summary
  • Floods and landslides have direct and long-term impacts on humans and the environment.
  • The psychological, social, physical, and economic damage can last from several months to years.
The Kitale-Lodwar highway on Saturday, November 23, 2019, following the landslide in West Pokot.
CUT-OFF: The Kitale-Lodwar highway on Saturday, November 23, 2019, following the landslide in West Pokot.
Image: MARYANNE CHAI

If you studied science and agriculture in primary school, then you are familiar with the functions of trees. In relation to reducing the magnitude of damage caused by floods and landslides, trees reduce the speed of flowing water, enhance higher soil infiltration rates and hold soil firmly hence reducing the intensity of soil erosion and landslides.

The months of November-December 2019 recorded several instances of flooding and landslides, causing havoc in various parts of the country. From the capital city Nairobi to marginalised areas such as West Pokot county and the Coast.

More than 50 lives were lost in the West Pokot landslide alone. Elsewhere, properties were destroyed, livestock killed, buildings collapsed and the environment damaged. Scores of people have been left homeless.

Floods and landslides have direct and long-term impacts on humans and the environment. The psychological, social, physical, and economic damage can last from several months to years.

Triggers of floods are both human-induced and natural. It is a known fact that human activities exacerbate the flood triggers. However, contributing factors in urban and rural areas vary. Deforestation and intensified agriculture are notable activities wiping out forests.

Practise tree growing as opposed to the ceremonial tree planting. Nurture them. Prioritise it to avert the potential damage resulting from soils left bare. Practise agroforestry if you have a small portion of land.

 

While I agree disasters do occur and sometimes we may do little to stop them, we can still lower the chances of their occurrence and the level of destruction by planting and nurturing trees in flood-prone areas and hillsides.

If you followed the situation in West Pokot closely, you must have seen lots of soil swept down covering people, livestock, and houses.

The August 2019 landslide in Elgeyo Marakwet county, where four members of one family were buried alive, is another example. There were barely any trees on the hilly area apart from short plants.

We now need to acknowledge the significance of trees beyond their economic value. Practise tree growing as opposed to the ceremonial tree planting. Nurture them. Prioritise it to avert the potential damage resulting from soils left bare. Practise agroforestry if you have a small portion of land.

Trees also help in regulating the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, addressing global warming, which has led to the melting of glaciers and ice, and a rise in sea levels.

Let’s consider tree growing as an integral part of addressing disasters. Take the practice to marginalised communities, where people have little to no clue on why they should spend their time, money and energy planting trees or establishing a forest.

The action is needed urgently in areas that experience floods every year — plant trees that are favourable to the type of soil and climatic conditions of the specific place.

More importantly, discourage charcoal burning, logging, timber harvesting and clearing of forests for agricultural and settlement purposes.