Kenya: We Can Mitigate Adverse Effects of Climate Change on Environment

A man crosses River Chepera in Sigor, West Pokot on November 26, 2019.
27 November 2019
opinion

Global warming is choreographed by catastrophic weather demonstrations that include haphazard rain patterns, deviant rainfall intensity, calamitous winds, high humidity, supercharged clouds, killer temperatures and overcasting prolonged fog.

DISASTER

These cataclysmic weather exhibitions are trailed by melting of ice and snow, heavy river discharge, enlarged gobs of hailstones that take days to melt, lightning and thunder, poor visibility, disproportionate rain, discomforting gales, catastrophic heatwaves, freezing temperatures and poor visibility.

These hazards lead to disasters of diverse kinds and magnitudes. A hazard is a situation that is not causing harm but, with vulnerability, it transforms into a disaster.

The environmental disasters associated with global warming are numerous. The localised ones may include floods, drought, landslides, rockfalls, breaking and uprooting of trees, collapse of structures, destruction of crops and deaths.

Floods cause death to people and destroy the environment, sweep away property, cause sedimentation of water bodies, excite sewage flooding and cause diseases. Droughts cause food shortage and famine, malnutrition and death.

SHIELDS

Prolonged rains and pluvial floods can encourage landslides and rockfalls, causing loss of life and land scarring. Poor visibility causes navigation accidents while humongous hailstones can break glasses, kill people on impact and cause snowing and frosting.

We can militate against floods by planting cover crops, enhancing forest cover, strengthening weak riverbanks, deepening sedimented rivers, constructing coastal barriers and discouraging settlements on flood paths. Droughts and famines can be combated through afforestation, practising climate-smart agriculture and harvesting flood- and rainwater. Cloud seeding will cure extraordinary hailstones, just as planting live hedges and wood bunds shields against storms.

MAPPING

Landslides are the elephant in the room. A landslide/ landslip is a conglomeration of mass wasting processes that include rockfalls, mudflows and debris flow. They are commonly experienced in escarpment and cliff areas. Although they can be triggered by earthquakes, roads and rivers that cut deep into a slope and tremors created by heavy trucks and trains, the landslides experienced in the steep areas of Kenya are mainly the products of soil liquification by heavy rainfall in an area that is devoid of vegetable cover.

Recently, a landslide caused the death of more than 50 people in West Pokot County. In the absence of a landslide disaster preparedness, the disaster can easily replicate itself in other rugged areas. This would necessitate the government mapping out landslide-prone areas, besides targeting them for restorative and progressive land use and giving specific information to the vulnerable citizens.

INDICATIVE

Significantly, the residents should be aware of the landslide indicative signs, such as tilted trees and power lines that are usually vertical; bulging earth, especially on road edges and slopes; mounds of soil against house walls and fences; cracks on the earth's surface, house walls and concrete floors (as house foundations shift); sunken sections of road surfaces, cracks on roads and sidewalks, broken water lines, spaces in door jambs and frames, reduced levels of water in ponds and water pools on raised areas (despite continuous rainfall) and displaced rocks.

Individuals can take action against landslides by safeguarding their homes, through steadying hanging portions of land and rock; reducing or ceasing activities that encourage landslides.

AVOID

You also need to avoid settlement on steep slopes, semi-suspended escarpments, on the lower end of a road that cuts into an escarpment and at the base of sharp hills; planting trees on bare cliff and escarpment surfaces and monitoring one's environment for landslide signs, which should be taken as vacating orders.

Landslide signs should also be reported to neighbours and concerned authorities.

The author is an environmental consultant, is a lecturer at the University of Kabianga.

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