Kenya is a home to the modern safari. It is the land with diverse climate and geography; a place that has wildlife, good climate, rich agricultural soils and beautiful landscapes. However, despite the abundance in natural resources, Kenya like most developing countries is crippled by so many problems which are mainly man-made. Apart from systemic neglect, shameful land grabbing and unplanned buildings, the first environmental areas to pay attention to should be the pathetic drainage system in our cities.
Unlike in rural areas where when it rains the water is absorbed into the soil easily due to the availability of vegetation, in Urban areas; the roofs, buildings, parking lots, tarmacked roads and lack of enough plant cover converts the rain water into runoff . This storm water is collected in the drains which are meant to discharge the water in natural water systems such as rivers.
Open drains are one of Kenya’s biggest sanitation problems yet we give little attention to the often overflowing open drains and parcels of garbage strewn carelessly along the streets and in drains. As most of the storm water systems in our cities have open channels where a lot of illegal discharge of domestic and industrial waste happens. It is evident that not only is this an environmental challenge but also a human health challenge.
The total burden of diseases in our urban areas is mainly due to environmental pollution. The lack of attention given to this drain sanitation issue by the government has resulted to many recent cases of cholera. But after all the challenges we face in relation to human health and during the rainy seasons, the question is, do we ever learn something? If yes, why have we not done something about it?
What happened to reasonable standards of sanitation? Why have we always opted to have open drainage systems that are often misused? Why don’t we have a bylaw on the use of drains? A drainage system protection bylaw is among the infrastructural or enforcement mechanisms that would ensure proper waste disposal and collection which has been our main challenge. Proper maintenance of drainage systems could also mean fewer floods during the rainy seasons. Green infrastructure could ensure pollution prevention and quantity control of the water collected in drains.
Economic maintenance of our drainage systems means more than dealing with floods and human health but also effectively with the issue of water scarcity. It is now hard to even think of harvesting of water from our drains during the rainy seasons. We flash rain water down the drain yet harvesting storm water runoff produces way more water than the wells combined and could help in the demand for clean water.
I hope that this article would help you demand for better maintenance of the drainage systems in your towns. This should include regular inspection and cleaning of drains. It would also be wise to have drainage system protection bylaws passed by the county governments especially those that have major cities in them.
Drainage and sewerage system in urban areas should be an important priority.