Kenya has been awash with the worst case of flooding for 20 years. Hundreds have died, thousands have been made homeless and there has been massive damage to infrastructure. Yet, in the midst of the flooding, Nairobi's water supply system ran dry! Wanjohi Kabukuru reports.
In early February 2018 Kenya hosted the 48th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum in the coastal resort city of Mombasa. On the sidelines of the conference the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) director Peter Ambenje issued an alert of heavy rains and possible flooding to be expected in the months from March until July. Kenya's climatic pattern is made up of the long rains from March to July and short rains from October to December.
The prediction issued covered East and Central Africa, as well as the Horn. "There will be a chance of flooding in South Sudan, western Ethiopia, southwestern Uganda, northeastern Rwanda and southern Tanzania," Ambenje said. "In Kenya we are not safe."
It is significant to note that Kenya hosts the regional Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Application Centre, which provides weather information and data for the entire region. It was therefore no surprise when Ambenje issued an early warning on floods for the region.
As for Kenya, the Met department was categorical that extreme weather conditions in the form of heavy rains would be experienced in the central, southwestern and south-eastern parts, with a possibility of floods. These warnings by the Met department were not taken seriously, despite the fact that the country had been experiencing a 2-year-long drought.
And so it happened. The rains came and flooding occurred.
As of mid-May, the trail of death, destruction and displacement had ignited a humanitarian disaster.
The flooding was made worse after a privately-owned dam in Solai, Nakuru County broke its walls and killed 46 people downstream. The tragedy shook the nation and soul-searching began.
"In the construction of a dam, the first consideration is the purpose--the small, medium or large-scale use of water," says Dr Evans Mukolwe, a former scientific and technical director at the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva.
"The second consideration," he continues, "covers the feeder-rivers and their catchment areas. It does not make sense to build a large dam on a seasonal river. Third, a study of the rainfall trends of the areas must be carried out to bring out the worst rainfall...