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Why does the city keep flooding?

Aboda boda rider wades through the flooded road at clock tower along Entebbe road .

By Caroline Ariba

(Pictures by Badru Katumba)

The rains are here, soon, so will the floods. Kampala’s drainage system can only take so much; if history is anything to go by, it will fold. Ear to the ground and you will hear of a community’s road navigations muffled to the core. Water everywhere, all the way into living rooms and eateries; a flooded Kampala defines a rainy season.

 In Bwaise, a suburb north of Kampala, this is the order of the day. Even with the few rains that have showed face recently, suburbs like this will fill the pinch. As Daily Monitor recently put it, it is one of the Kampala suburbs best known for flooding during heavy rains and this makes it relatively hard for one to cross from one point to another unless carried by those who know the road well. 

“Floods cut off many roads including the main road (Nabweru Road) that passes through Bwaise and connects to Nansana,” a resident Bule said. “The standstill almost takes a period of two to three hours depending on the magnitude of the rains. Water logging in Bwaise has led to the loss of lives, especially those who try to cross after heavy rains.”

But Bwaise might be popular for these floods, but it can’t be the only city suburb, not by the longest shot. See, when this happens, social media is awash with the news. Online site, Flood List highlighted a cry by Uganda Red Cross Society. It was reported that at least 8 people died within the city from floods. The fatalities occurred in the areas of Kikajjo, Lubowa and Lufuka in the south of Kampala after heavy rain from 26 May. Uganda Red Cross said that over 500 households were affected in the area.

 “The flash floods have had a devastating effect on the lives of people, livestock, businesses, household items and has affected human settlement,” they said. “Many people have been displaced while others have had to move to neighboring villages for shelter with relatives and close friends. Schools too have been affected and this has an impact on the education of children in the affected areas.”

Understanding floods in the city

Uganda is a country of an estimated 44million people, about 20% of whom make up the urban population. So while 80% live in rural areas instead of the developing urban areas, major cities have been plunged into a population boom of mostly low-income earners who make up a large part of the city’s slums.

True, of the total of 259 urban centers in the country, Kampala was top among the destinations for many young people. Though Wakiso district takes the lion share of the population, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) places Kampala City’s population at nearly 2 million people.

Sadly with the country’s population generally growing at 3.26% annually with about 1.5 million Ugandans born each year, many more will migrate into the city in search of greener pastures. Note that the district that is Kampala has an area of about 189 km2, of which 13km2 is Lake Victoria and other waterways. Sadly, these are not clear waterways as they have been burdened with our poor waste disposal habits.

To contain this population and its habits, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the body mandated to run the city, has been left with a lot on its plate. A baseline survey Development Research and Training tells of how a whole 50% of the city’s population lives in slums. Many of these slums are right in the belly of our wetlands and nature is angry!

According to environmentalist Gideon Lubobi, building and residing in wetlands that would have helps take on the large chunk of water is our issue. “Now the water must find another place to go, but we need proper drainage for this,” he says. “Do we have it?” He says that even the channels that wpuld have taken the water have been filled with all sorts of garbage, plastics that simply impair movement. “People in this city will simply draw down their windows and throw that water bottle out, where do you think it lands?” he asks.

To answer this question, one need not look further. The trenches are full of rubbish, when it rains, they are clogged. In Bwaise, if you looked closely at what is in the water, you will see floating garbage. KCCA is battling both organic and un-organic waste. According to the KCCA, it’s over 20 acre garbage collection point is choking with a chunk un-organic garbage?

Sadly, before it is collected and taken to the site, this garbage would have caused clogging in the already overwhelmed trenches. This, which includes plastic bottles, polythene bags, straws among other things, will render the overwhelmed drainage systems useless. And hence cause floods.





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