NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 25 – Budalang’i Member of Parliament Ababu Namwamba has said his constituents were now better prepared to deal with the predicted El Nino rains in September.
He said they had stepped up community awareness on disaster preparedness through a community radio station established by the Constituency Development Fund, Ministry of Special Programmes and the Meteorological Department.
“We realised that the major problem in emergency response in the district has been inability to transmit information,” the MP said.
“We should now be able to fairly accurately alert the community to move out of risk areas at least 48 to 72 hours ahead of a disaster,” he added.
He said the sensitisation campaigns conducted through the local radio station had adequately prepared the area residents to avoid huge emergency situations.
In an exclusive interview with Capital News, Mr Namwamba said the government and the World Bank were also working on a comprehensive plan to the flood problem which included repair and construction of dykes and dams.
“A lot of flooding is caused by meandering of the river which slows down the river flow so we have been reducing the corners, twists and turns of the river in the last one year,” he said.
“By making it straighter, you increase the water flow and diminish the possibility of water logging in a particular point and causing flooding,” he added.
Mr Namwamba said a survey had also been commissioned to construct dams upstream so that they could hold extra volume of water when it rained especially in the Cherangany hills.
He said the contract had been awarded to a British firm to do the survey which included citing of the dams, Environmental Impact Assessment of the dams and construction of fresh dykes.
“The ones (dykes) we have today in Budalangi are like 30 years old and so they have reached their limit,” the MP said.
He said the reconstruction of dykes would be complete by December but the dams would take longer.
“We have sealed most of the weak points around the old dykes but a lot remains to be done,” he said.
“But I believe that if the 1997 style of El Nino hits this country, we would still remain vulnerable,” he added.
He said construction of a disaster management centre was also underway and the first phase would be complete by September. The disaster management centre, he said, would have response equipment like boats, tents and a multipurpose hall that could serve as temporary shelter.
“We have seen horrible sights in the past where people lose their homesteads and stay in the open. The hall is supposed to cure that,” he said.
Budalangi is infamous for flooding with every rain season leaving thousands of families displaced and affecting local food production.
“We have two key irrigation schemes in Budalangi and both schemes are in very close proximity to the flood plain. We have been able to harvest rice for the first time in about ten years and we hope that we can have another harvest in September and October,” he said.
“But if it floods around that time then we will definitely lose our crop.”
The legislator said the World Bank had set aside Sh6 billion for the project dubbed Western Kenya Community driven development and flood mitigation project.
He said the project would cover the entire Nzoia basin from Cherangany hills to Budalangi.
“This will cover 10 districts through which the Nzoia basin runs,” Mr Namwamba said.