(Published in New Vision, Uganda, 29.12.2015)
In the recent weeks, Chennai, formerly called Madras has experienced floods in great magnitude that it has never seen. Though rains have ceased, flood water has not drained in many city suburbs, posing epidemic such as cholera, malaria, hepatitis and other skin diseases.
Chennai is the third largest city in India having population of over seven million. It is also said to be 34th largest metropolitan city in the world. The continuous floods since the beginning of December has disorganised the IT industry for which the city is internationally known for. The enormity of the flood can be explained by a photograph taken at the city’s airport where a large aeroplane was carried off by the flood water to edge of the airport.
This historic flood is said to be a man-made disaster. The city’s drainage system both natural and man-made have not been maintained for decades. The expansion of the city with all the modern amnesties did not take in to consideration the monsoon rainfall which is about 780 mm per annum. Due to unregulated development projects such as roads, railway lines, subways, airports, factories, skyscrapers, etc reduced green space thus increasing heat level and reducing the routine rains. People even concluded that rains are never to come.
It is said that the British colonial government build 3,600 tanks/reservoirs which managed the rains and water storage of the city were encroached upon. Several natural and man-made canals used for drainage purposes were unscrupulously used to dispose sewage water and solid waste including industrial toxic waste. The major rivers and the wetlands around the city too were reduced to smaller size. It is sadly noted that that one of the major cause of the floods in Chennai is said to be plastic papers famously known as Kaveera in Uganda.
Are we not doing the same in Kampala and other growing towns in Uganda? How much of wetland is still left in and around Kampala? What has happened to water canals that served various purposes? Do we still have green spaces? Have we not flattened the picturesque hills to build flats? Where are the mushrooming factories put up? Do we have policies on waste management?
Thanks to social media, selfies, news, reflections, and creative pieces of literature were in galore. They made people aware of their own doings. One such was a pithy poem titled “We Deserve Floods,” that appeared in one of the native Indian language.
We settle in wildlife habitat, later lament animals destroying our homes,
We build factories in wetlands, later lament flooding in towns,
We transform fertile crop lands, later lament hiked food prices,
We bribe government officials, later lament of escalating corruption,
We vote after getting money, later lament of bad government,
We receive freebies from politicians, later lament lack of services.
Yes, we need floods to sweep our fake and corrupt lives!
We cannot fight nature. If we try, before we succeed, it will fight us back and we will be the losers. Let the hard-learnt lessons of South India be a preventive lesson for Uganda.
(Themes: Corruption, environment, pollution, Nature, care for earth)