Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our habits led to flooding of Thika highway

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 18 August 2013

Kenyans who live in Nairobi and think the capital city is the beginning and end of Kenya were shocked last Wednesday when the flagship project of our “development”, Thika Road, was rendered impassable due to heavy flooding.

Pictures posted online showed roads that seemed to have turned into rivers, complete with submerged vehicles and people wading in knee-deep water. What many did not realise was that this phenomenon was not only restricted to Nairobi and Thika Road. Outside Nairobi, many roads regularly turn into rivers whenever it rains. The difference is that they are already hazardous due to the many craters one has to reckon with even on dry days.

It was, therefore, amusing to see some people pouring vitriol on the Chinese, who they deemed responsible for the allegedly “poorly designed roads” that provided proof of inferior techniques. Unfortunately, the evidence against Chinese builders is very weak to begin with.

First, one only needs to look at the roads built by the Chinese in their own country to understand why their engineering and construction cannot be to blame. Every direction one looks in China, there are roads more complex than any we have in this country. Thika Road would approximate the equivalent of a rural access road in comparison!

Second, the criticism of Chinese architecture loses its sting when one looks at Kenyan roads designed and built by Kenyans. They are pockmarked with potholes within weeks of completion, and the usually thin layer of tarmac is washed away within days of a drizzle. If Chinese road-builders are pathetic, then obviously ours are non-existent!

One is, therefore, justified to ask what went wrong last week leading to the conversion of this architectural masterpiece (in Kenyan terms, of course!) into a raging river.

The obvious answer is that there was a problem with drainage. On Kenyan-built roads, drainage is not an integral consideration during construction. Our builders only think about drainage whenever water pools in the craters that inevitably form a few weeks after “completion”. However, Thika Road was built with adequate drainage channels, at least in the eyes of a road construction layman like me. 


Unfortunately, soon after it was opened for use, those of us enjoying the smoothness of the road continued with our peculiar habits. We buy foodstuffs on our journeys, and when we are done with them, we throw the wrappers and any left-overs out of the windows.

Plastic bags, maize cobs, milk cartons, and banana peels -- nothing is spared in our quest to “clean up” our personal space. We subscribe to the philosophy that once something is out of sight (out of the car window in our case), it no longer exists. And if it does, it is somebody else’s problem.

A second problem is the lack of a maintenance culture in Kenya. Despite our uncouth behaviour of throwing all waste out of car windows, had the responsible authorities been regularly unclogging the drains, the problem of flooded roads would not arise. In Kenya, unfortunately, we build things and then sit back to watch them degenerate. Once this happens, we turn around and look for someone else to blame.

In this case, we must acknowledge our own responsibility for our flooded roads and leave the Chinese out of it. We cannot live first-class lives without developing first-class habits! 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine lukoye@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something about this post!