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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
How can Africa cope with floods?
Western Kenya
Western Kenya is prone to flooding

More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more displaced in eastern Africa as floods continue to wreak havoc in the region.

In Tanzania, at least 35 passengers died on Thursday after their bus plunged into a flooding river in the northwestern district of Missungwi.

Torrential rains that caused flooding in Djibouti early last week are now known to have killed at least 52 people.

In Kenya, close to 20 people lost their lives as heavy rains pounded the western parts of the country.

Yet flooding in this region is not an unusual phenomenon.

The BBC's Africa Live programme asks: Why are African governments often caught unprepared whenever such disasters occur?

While most African livelihoods are agro-based and depend on rainfall for sustainability, in what ways can the continent harness excess rain water?


This debate is now closed. Find your comments below:

The problem is not that African governments cannot afford to control the floods...the problem is poor prioritizing. Take the example of western Kenya where some communities have been marooned in camps due to flooding. The government could afford to spend 100 million shillings celebrating 40 years of independence. Please do not say we lack the resources. The only way we lack resources is our leaders' refusal to inject professionalism in its style of leadership.
Cajeni, Kenya

The questions to ask are: are city officials properly doing their work? Are there better drainage systems? Do they really tackle issues of sanitation?
Dallon Quewea, Liberia/USA

In order to stop the flooding, the people in Tanzania should build a dam. The dam would help with the flooding, irrigate water, and store water in a time of drought.
Lillian, USA

Poor surveyor services and poverty are factors in flooding. Also underhand dealings by governments in awarding contracts to unscrupulous timber logging companies leads to the unfriendly treatment to environment which is tantamount to disasters.
Sheku M. Jalloh, Gambia

Resettlement of people from their areas seems a very easy solution. But here we are faced with a problem where a people are not ready to abandon their roots to start life afresh. And it is unfair to reduce our inability to cope with the perennial floods to poverty. What is required is serious political will and a culture of self-dependence. Give the donors a break, for goodness sake. They are not responsible for our inadequacies!!!
Chachacha Arnold Munthali, Malawi

There is evidence that rainfall events in Southern Africa are being affected by global warming - in 2000 the massive floods in Mozambique were possibly due to the Indian Ocean surface temperature reaching a critical 26 degrees further south than usual. In addition the Zambezi dams were poorly managed - but who can blame a government for not pre-emptively throwing water away, especially if the hydro-electric power it generates is a lifeline for your economy. Flooding is going to be come more of a problem in years to come.
Andy Mayo, UK

Africa will be able to cope with flood problems if or when countries are able to have advanced meteorological systems. Computers provide enormous amounts of data on water vapour, clouds, precipitation and radiation for accurate forecasting. With earth-based supercomputers and space-based observation systems, Africa can prepare in advance for floods.
Teddy Albert Bandima, Canada

The best way to deal with the menace of seasonal floods is to improve drainage systems. This will solve the issue of floods and also will provide water to irrigate crops when there is drought. Holland has been successful with the dyke system and I think African countries can learn from its successes. Floods can be turned into an economic opportunity if carefully managed because crops such as rice require lots of water to do well.
Marial Wuoi, USA/Sudan

Floods are a part of our natural environment, whether in Africa or elsewhere. Flood prevention in Africa should shift from disaster recovery to preventive risk management. That means government and media should increase awareness by timely and reliable flood forecasting system. With additional measures on a community level (such as small earth dams) one may retain, store and drain heavy rainfalls where they occur. Flood protection is never absolute and things may go wrong! We all, not only the Africans, simply have to deal with this challenge.
Gunter Wiedenhofer, Germany

I attribute flooding in most African countries due to poor drainage systems and the lack of involvement by our resident engineers.
Zulu Clifford, Zambia

The Eastern Caprivi of Namibia is situated on the flood plains of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. People live there, and use the natural resources as they are modulated by this cycle of seasonal flooding, and migrate as needed. The floods of this and last year are reported as the highest since about 1957, but they are no more than expected from the very well documented natural cycle. Yet the authorities report a disaster, and manage evacuations. What has happened? Have people lost their customary resource-management methods and their oral history? Has population increased beyond local capacity? Better insight is one of the things we need.
Fred Kruger, South Africa

When leaders become more interested in helping the citizens of their countries instead of helping themselves then maybe the countries of Africa will have a better chance. We have received help from all sides and still we have these problems
Keta, Sao Tome

Controlling flooding means controlling corruption. The government agencies entrusted with the duty of planning settlements have failed to demolish several houses which are in water-ways since their palms have been greased.
Chris Mensah, Ghana

Many people die in floods each year in the south part of France. France is not in Africa.
Prigent, Kenyan in France

One method to solve this problem is to elevate the house in a flood zone. This can be done by elevating the entire house, including the floor, or by leaving the house in its existing position and constructing a new elevated floor within the house.
Tulu, Ethiopia

The answer perhaps lies in better environmental studies of the role dams play in flooding areas not historically prone to flooding. The west have learnt that bridging the natural flow of rivers with dams is a major source of flooding and other natural disasters. As a result no new dams are being built in most western countries. Why is Africa treading a path that has already being proven to be a failure?
Azuka Uzoh, USA

Easy to blame the Western powers, but all too often agencies have to pay for the privilege of helping. Control of housing in flood plains, re-afforestation, dredging of existing water courses - these are all modest in cost and could be carried out by the existing governments if they really did care.
Jeff King, United Kingdom

At times settlements in marshy land and closer to water sources such as rivers and lakes, aggravate and create a devastating havoc to the residents. One way of tackling the problem would be resettling communities to low flood-risk areas.
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopian/South Africa

This is very sad news. Why do our leaders let such a disaster occur before they could even do anything? I think the only solution is to build dams to hold back water.
Manyanga Gak, Sudanese in USA

Whether these disasters come by way of floods, draught, locusts, or all of these put together, they are natural disasters by definition. What this means is that we can learn a thing or two from other animals supposedly lower down the hierarchy. Just take the wild ants, for example: They deliberately gather and store their food during the dry season in a safe location, so that when the rains arrive, no member of the group dies of hunger - a very unsophisticated, primordial, yet very effective, approach to survival. Yet, any development economist with some measure of common sense will acknowledge that Africa's greatest problem is what they call "a failure of statehood." Put simply, it is the literal abandonment of elementary governmental functions to the aid agencies, to the extent that there are very few countries in the region with basic infrastructure and institutions capable of planning for these known disasters.
UE, UK/Nigeria

The floods that are ravaging African countries are part of the by products of lack of foresight by our leaders over the years. Forest trees were and are still be being felled with impunity. In Nigeria, billions of Naira are appropriated for environmental protection yet the environment is highly abused. The leaders are much at home with their primordial wealth acquisition at the expense of other citizens welfare and common good.
Adewale Ajao, Nigeria

The question really is why aren't Western governments with the know-how and resources helping these governments in irrigation and flooding control?
Romeo Ezike, Chicago, USA

African governments cannot do much because of poverty. As a first step villages could be moved to higher grounds.
Sorie Turay, Sierra Leone

It is not excess water but unchecked run-off created due to denuding of the biomass in many parts of Africa. Had the vegetation cover been adequate enough to give the rain water a chance of gently percolating into the soil like it used to centuries ago, then definitely the threat of flooding would have been greatly abated. However, since the erratic nature of the rainfall, prolonged frequency between floods is deceiving, it seems that many governments prefer to carry out relief efforts as and when such calamities happen rather than seeking long lasting solutions. There are definitely many ways to harvest and store flood water for dry season use.
Debebe D, UK





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