Kenyans share blame for not preparing for floods

We sit on our hands, expecting somebody else to come clear drainage

In Summary

• Predictable as the effects of the rains are, we are always caught flat-footed

A home marooned by water as floods wreak havoc in Nyando subcounty, Kisumu on April 16
A home marooned by water as floods wreak havoc in Nyando subcounty, Kisumu on April 16

I just saw an X (Twitter) post by Robert Alai, warning those who channel streams from bigger rivers in Nairobi. The people who build ‘by the river’ are suffering great losses currently as their homes are being destroyed by the rising current. Which reminds me…

Every rain season, I find myself getting upset at the lack of preparation and proper infrastructural planning by the government and the powers that be. However, this time round, I would like to share the blame. We, the people, are often more to blame than we make others believe. Every single rain season, we sing the same song. “The floods. Our homes. My crops.” As if we did not know what to expect.

Let me make it clear that I am not speaking of natural disasters like El Nino and flash floods. I am speaking of matters on behalf of the two rain seasons Kenya receives annually. Just as the farmer ploughs his land at the end of the dry season, so should we all prepare ourselves for the upcoming effects of the rains.

I honestly do not understand how and why we fail ourselves to this degree. We do nothing and expect somebody else to do it. When the worst happens, we start assigning blame. For instance, in my hometown of Kisauni, we spend 10 months out of the year with practically no rain. So what happens in these 10 months? The drains get clogged up by sand, dirt and plastic bottles. I see this with my own eyes.

Yet we all sit on our hands, expecting somebody else to come clean it. Why? “It’s not my job” we would answer arrogantly. As if I would not be the first person to be affected by the rains once the streets start flooding. Sure, the municipality ought to do something. But if the 60 years of independence has taught us something, then it’s this: the government rarely does its job.

Why don’t we as communities take the initiative to unclog our drains long before the rains? Why don’t we fix our roofs and inspect our walls? Chop down the dead trees and pour murram on the dirt roads? Again, we do not do it because it's not our problem! It only becomes a problem when the worst has happened and we start pointing fingers.

Meanwhile, our government has never been proactive, it has and always will be a reactive one, especially when pressured. It’s during calamities that our big-bellied public officials will gather in front of our television screens in their Italian suits that they cannot pronounce, and read off a paper about how they are ‘doing something’.

Fear not, dear Kenyans. We can always be certain that one department in government is always working night and day. The department that makes sure non-resident Kenyans like myself have declared our income every year. Nothing else matters.

As I write this, I am facing the stream that passes right outside my house. Am I worried about the river bursting its bank? A little. It’s nature, after all, and cannot be predicted. However, in my country of residence, the municipality always takes a proactive approach. All through winter, I witnessed several municipality employees clearing the bank of dead trees right outside my doorstep and replacing all the benches lining the river.

There is a truck that goes around clearing all the drains before spring. The swings in the children’s parks are inspected and replaced when necessary. The grass is cut and the trees trimmed.

And it’s not just the municipality. Before winter, every home clears out their gutters, piles up their firewood and ensures that the heaters are running efficiently. Why do people do this? They know what is coming and prepare for it as much as they possibly can.

Meanwhile in Kenya, we grab riparian land, get sold land on swamps, build haphazardly without due consideration and cry when Mother Nature comes to claim back what is hers. The rain seasons are upon us once more, but we all sit with folded arms waiting… this too shall pass!

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star