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Thursday,August 06,2020 01:17 AM

Build on high ground to survive floods

By Simon J. Mone

Added 16th June 2020 09:57 AM

Communities must avoid the country’s flood-prone plains. They should also avoid settling around lake basins and other low-lying areas

Build on high ground to survive floods

Simon J. Mone

Communities must avoid the country’s flood-prone plains. They should also avoid settling around lake basins and other low-lying areas

OPINION

Recently, countries in East Africa, especially Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, have been taking a battering from unhappy nature. 

Unhappy nature has turned a dark eye to East Africa; after what we saw our Southern African people endure in 2019. Severe storms brought many Southern Africa countries to their knees. And floods rendered villages and cities inhabitable. 

The humanitarian state of the countries there was difficult. Emergency response was only possible by helicopters that hovered over stranded people to provide help. As is always the case, the developing countries remain the most eligible candidates for vulnerability in such circumstances. And here in Uganda, we have seen in the recent past, how residents continue to be submerged in big volumes of water; which either spills over from the lake and rivers that receive too much rains, and force their banks to give way. 

We have seen how floods have caused damage to expensive government and private infrastructure and installations. Roads and bridges were washed away. Hospitals and homes were destroyed. People lost their lives in the process and their settlements have been washed downstream. 

And their livelihoods have been completely shattered. Some people have to start all over again. In our part of the world, running water after heavy storm now fails to find its natural drainage course, and so therefore, now prefers to rush into peoples' houses. If ever we were not heeding to calls, to take the environment seriously, recent flooding has pulled our ears. 

Now we are going to follow warning signals painfully. A bad way to learn our lessons! So, floods now earn a place among the top devastating natural disasters, not only in sub-Saharan Africa but around the world — the Asians and South Americans will testify. It is a challenge for which we need solutions very quickly. We know that human activities; filling wetlands and low-lying plains, in the name of development have blocked the natural water courses. And also putting up settlements in areas that are not suitable for human settlement, partly explains why excess waters must now get its way to our homes. The impact, as we found out recently has not been very good. 

We must improve on the existing mitigations because they are now not adequate. Information is being disseminated widely; on early warning systems; through; radio, TV and newspapers, before the start of rains and when serious dry conditions are expected. So that communities can plan to act at the right time, and be able to stay safe from these weather hazards. The message reaches. Communities have painfully obeyed weather-risk communication. Yet still face devastation as happening now-a-days. That is why more must be done. 

On top of information that is issued from time to time, communities must actively participate in ensuring their safety from floods. Communities must avoid the country's flood-prone plains and not settle around lake basins and other low-lying areas. We all know that the best place to build settlements is above the low-lying grounds, not low-lying plains, where a majority of our people build, usually with technology that is not resilient.

Our disaster management experts must come in. Map out and publish all the ‘red' zones and the best locations for communities to settle in. So they can avoid committing resources in places not worth settling in. Otherwise, the cost of not doing enough is going to escalate the extent of human suffering. And will raise humanitarian response costs, which should be put in solving other needs. Therefore, we need the experts to continue engaging communities to move away from wetlands and settle in high-rise land. Building on a high ground is the best mitigation to flooding. 

The writer is a civil engineer

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