Flash floods due to poor drainage system

Emmanuel Kafe —
With the incessant rainfalls that are being experienced almost every day, some people might be longing for a “Noah’s Ark” to escape the water that is finding its way into their homes.

A snap survey conducted by The Sunday Mail Extra in some parts of Chitungwiza and Harare last week established that some homes in these areas are flooded.

The rains keep falling, the grounds are now saturated with water and the absence of proper and well maintained drainage systems has made it difficult for water to find its way to nearby tributaries that can lead it to water bodies like dams.

Flooding due to poor drainage system has become the order of the day in most low lying areas of Harare.

A 26km drive via Seke Road to the potholed Chitungwiza’s Unit J, D, Makoni and Chikwanha shopping areas is a nightmare. One can hardly negotiate the potholes as they are covered with stagnant water.

The water is trapped in ditches and roads as the drainage system is either clogged with litter and sand or non-existent.

Similarly, at the heart of Harare’s oldest suburb – Mbare – blocked drainage systems are causing artificial floods in the streets, thereby exposing residents to water-borne diseases and road accidents.

The Sunday Mail Extra drove to Mbare National last week and witnessed as water levels rose along Dumbujena, Mbirimi, Mwamuka and Chinhamora streets. The drainage systems there were blocked with garbage.

The nearby shopping mall is being blamed for the flooding in the area. Residents complained of the city council’s failure to quickly intervene and help them as they continue losing valuables to the floods.

The situation is also making it difficult for children to navigate their way to school as the roads are flooded.

Besides Mbare and the central business district, other areas seriously affected by poor or blocked drainage systems include Highfield, Budiriro, Kambuzuma and Warren Park. There are either pools of water or flooded streams in these residential areas.

These puddles are a breeding ground for cholera, typhoid and mosquitoes.

Environmental and health experts who spoke to this publication raised concern and suggested possible solutions in addressing the problem.

A Harare city resident, Brian Siyanda, said the Harare city council should maintain drainage systems as most roads flood every rainy season, adding that the situation makes it difficult for people to move in town when it is raining.

In Chitungwiza, a resident who refused to be named fumed saying the town fathers are failing to service the drainage systems that have long promoted artificial flooding.

“Flash floods are a result of council’s failure to put up proper drainage facilities. The council should make sure it improves on refuse collection as the drains are being blocked by garbage,” said the resident.

Speaking in a telephone interview, Chitungwiza town clerk, Mr George Makunde, said they had a work programme of clearing drainage channels.

“We are in the process of clearing the drainage channels as we speak,” he said

In Mbare, Grace Muchori, who has been helping her daughter cross a flooded street every day since schools opened, said if council fails to address the false floods, water-borne diseases like cholera loom on the horizon.

“We are fearing for our children who like playing in water, besides typhoid there might be an outbreak of cholera and malaria as the flooded streets are a breeding place for mosquitoes,” she said.

A Mbare resident, whose house is opposite a blocked drainage system, said they are having problems when it is time to sleep.

“Children are sleeping on top of a table on a mattress as the house turns into a swimming pool and the situation is not even changing,” she complained.

Harare City Council spokesperson, Michael Chideme, said they are aware of the areas that are experiencing flooding due to drainage blockage and they are working on it.

“We are opening the drainage systems progressively in all the suburbs ,” he said.

Chideme added that as Harare City Council, they urge residents to be responsible when disposing garbage.

“We are encouraging responsible disposal of garbage to all residents,” he said.

Environmentalist Ronald Kawuna said flooding water can directly and indirectly impact human health because of the possible increased presence of water-borne, especially in wetlands.

“The wetlands in heavily populated areas are no longer cleaning water and in an event that there is flooding, refuse can flow into unprotected wells, thereby promoting water-borne diseases. Flooding is often associated with higher risks of infections as water sources become compromised,” he said.

Environmental Management Agency spokesperson, Freddy Kangata, said the only long-term solution is for the council’s master plan to leave wetlands as open space or areas of recreation. “Wetlands should not be converted into concrete jungles. They are like a sponge, they absorb water and thereby reduce flooding,” he said.

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