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Drainage relief for city flood victims

The Sh512m project funded by the World Bank and State is helping control  storm waters in South C, Ongata Rongai and Thika

Every time dark rain clouds gatherered in the skies over Nkaimurunya area of Ongata Rongai, Kajiado county, Sospeter ole Serian and his family would panic.

The family would scramble to pick up valuables from the wooden, two- roomed structure to seek refuge elsewhere. After the clouds burst, raging flash floods would soon leave a trail of destruction in this eastern steep side of the town’s main commercial area.

“The worst part of the rains would be the human waste and garbage the flash floods would deposit in our home. The health risks and agony of clearing the mess was too much,” Serian says.

Hudson Chege and his wife Eunice, directors of Boonhouse School in Nkaimurunya also used to live in perpetual dread of the rainy season.  Classes in their school would be submerged in storm waters. But the couple has something to smile about, as the school is no longer submerged in flood waters. This is even after the recent downpours.

Major downpours

However, Serian is unperturbed despite the present rains in most parts of the city.   “We no longer fear the rains. They are a blessing. The havoc caused is over. A drainage system constructed by the government is a big relief,” he says.

Smiles have been put on the face of the residents at the completion of the Nkaimurunya Drainage Project undertaken under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP) in Ongata Rongai town and in South C estate in Nairobi which have experienced calamities during rain season.

NaMSIP project is being implemented and funded jointly by a World Bank $300 million (Sh30.6 billion) support and with $30 million (Sh3.06 billion) support from the Kenya government through the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development. The waterway under the Nkaimurunya Bridge was expanded and the storm waters have been contained. 

Raphael Mbulu, the Ongata Rongai Division chairman of the Nyumba Kumi Community Policing Project and community chairman of the Nkaimurunya Bridge Drainage Project, knows only too well the harmful effects of flooding that hits the area whenever it rains. “Two years ago, we spent more than Sh3 million to provide shelter, food and bedding for people who had been affected by floods in this area,” he says.

Eng Joseph Mutula says the Nairobi Metropolitan Region has periodically experienced flooding during major downpours. “The city and parts of Kajiado county have especially borne the brunt of heavy rain seasons,” he says. 

Nairobi’s South C estate has over the years been a flash point due to flooding caused by blocked drains. Martin King’ori,  a boda boda rider recalls that in 2016, a pillion passenger he had just picked from Boma Hotel in South C almost drowned after they encountered raging floods at the Popo Road Junction.

“It is by God’s grace that we managed to save the woman and administer first aid on her,” says King’ori.

Others have not been as lucky. “Three people have drowned in this very spot,” he adds. Resident engineer, Zackary Waweru, blames poorly constructed and undersized storm water drainage systems, indiscriminate disposal of solid waste, encroachment and obstruction of riparian reserves, drainage way leaves and natural water causes for the crisis.

Informal settlements

Other reasons include haphazard development of informal settlement and depleted seepage zones caused by increased infrastructural developments.

In South C estate, the transformation included expansion of the existing drainage and installation of bigger culverts.  According to Waweru, of Gath Consulting Engineers, improvement works in Nairobi totals 13 kilometres. 

Nairobi Metropolitan Storm Water Drainage Project also covers Kajiado, Kiambu and Machakos counties.  Engineer Silas Gitau, who manages the project in Kajiado, says the works are concentrated in Ongata Rongai, while in Machakos, focus is in Mavoko. In Kiambu, repair works are being carried out in Thika.

Namsip is working closely with county governments who identify areas they feel require urgent attention as a result of flooding.  “The project started in November 2016 is now coming to a close. It  has been undertaken at a total cost of about Sh512 million. With the availability of more funds, we can do more work and reduce flooding as many more estates that are affected,” adds Gitau.   

Urban Planner, Stephen Mwongela attributes the urban water drainage problem to the fast urbanisation of the country’s former towns and is expected to get worse at the county level.

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