Traditionally, rainfall was celebrated because it is believed to be a blessing from the creator. For farmers, it should be celebrated much more since over 85 percent of farmers in Uganda depend on it for agriculture. Even in urban areas, rainfall would mean life to urban farms and gardens, more rain water – hence a saving on the water bills and much more.
However, the situation has over the years been changing from good to bad and now it is worse. Rain is now more cursed than cherished in both urban and rural areas. What a pity!
A modern saying in Uganda goes that ‘Water is life when you are not staying in Bwaise’. Bwaise is one of the suburbs of Uganda’s Capital City- Kampala that is prone to floods.
What used to be a Bwaise problem however is now in many other urban areas.
In March 2018 alone- Mbarara, Rukiga (Muhanga town) and Kabale towns among others saw the worst floods in their recent past and this is a sign of what has gone wrong over the years and what is likely to come.
In rural Uganda, the writing has for long been over the wall. The rate of environmental degradation has been growing to alarming levels presently. Hill slope forest cover has been decreasing daily, the hill slopes are poorly cultivated, bush burning has persisted while the wetlands in the low lying areas have been encroached on for agricultural practices- making mudslides, soil erosion and subsequent flooding inevitable. These floods for many years have been far in rural areas, away from the public limelight and wide mass media coverage.
However, now that the ‘flood spirits’ have invaded the urban areas, where mass media coverage is high, it is now time to wake up to the mess that has befallen our areas.
Much talk has for years centred on the rate of environmental degradation in rural areas but this phenomenon is real in urban areas. The biggest portion of wetlands in urban areas have been degraded mainly for human settlement and many forests have been degazetted. This is dangerous for our urban areas. To make matters worse, our urban areas have no adequate planning for drainage channels as well poorly planned human settlements.
In many of the big urban areas, the damage has already been done and little can be done to lessen the flooding cases- but still something can be done and must be done immediately. All buildings should have a rain water harvesting system or plan in place. This would ultimately lessen the amount of water from the roofs to the surface. Also, urban drainage channels must be opened and maintained. We cannot afford a situation where rain water finds its way to wherever it wants. Our urban areas must have more trees planted and more green belts while all buildings must be on plan and the approval of such plans must be based on technical guidance not corrupt tendencies. For the growing towns, this is the time to have the necessary plans in place to mitigate future problems like this. If such floods are not lessened, loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of transport and business as well as spread of water-borne diseases will continue in Uganda.
In a nutshell, urban and rural floods are a sign of something gone wrong. We must take them as a warning of more danger to come and a springboard to action. In Uganda, we are found of calling government to act but in this case, government alone cannot do much. We all must join hands to protect the environment and promote sustainable urban growth.