The fury of Mother Nature that has ravaged the country in the past few years is something we cannot turn a blind eye to any more. From prolonged droughts that lead to devastating famine, causing the death of both people and animals and destroying food crops for consumption, to the now monstrous floods that have swept almost the entire country in the past month, causing hundreds of deaths, numerous injuries, displacing many, and wreaking havoc on the country’s infrastructure from roads to buildings. The floods have always caught us unawares in terms of mitigation, despite earlier warnings given by the meteorological department every time. Is the government of the day helpless, or is it just ignorance?

No matter the case, we should learn to embrace mitigation measures before such disasters strike. In the case of these floods we have been experiencing, several strategies can be put in place to avert destruction. The first is mass education for the public. This mass education will involve educating the public on the steps to take when floods hit their home area. This would mean identifying places they can temporarily shift to as they wait for the floods to subside, a step that is supposed to be taken during the onset of rains before water levels increase to facilitate easier movement and reduce the risk of loss of life. Those in areas close to water sources should also be educated on the dangers that heavy rainfall could pose, such as the bursting of dams and breaking of riverbanks. Knowledge and understanding of such matters are of great importance. Not to sound biblical, but we indeed perish from a lack of knowledge.

Another strategy, which we task to the county governments, is the improvement of drainage systems and upgrading sewer infrastructure. If only the drainage systems were well-functional, especially in cities, we would have no accumulation of floods because the water would be disposed of at a well-designed location far from human settlement areas. If we had an upgraded sewer infrastructure, we would experience reduced contamination, leading to an outbreak of waterborne diseases. It is my belief we should not wait until we have another flood disaster and start running helter-skelter to fix the drainage and sewer systems, which leads to shoddy work that is not sustainable. Investment in resilient infrastructure such as high-quality roads, permeable pavements that sink rainwater into underground reservoirs, and green spaces should not be overlooked. All of this plays a role in mitigating flood disasters.

Finally, I should emphasize the implementation of urban planning strategies, such as building codes and zoning regulations. There is a menace in the country of construction, especially residential premises, around riparian lands. Many of the affected people are those who live on riparian lands, as rising water levels tend to find their original route. Hence, before commissioning any construction, concerned authorities should zone the area to ensure it is ideal for construction and that no buildings are erected on riparian land. Finally, yet importantly, let us invest in Early Warning Systems (EWS). Though expensive to acquire and maintain, especially in developing countries, and requiring skilled personnel to operate, it is a worthy investment. It will really help in the preparation, prevention, and mitigation of such disasters in the country.

My parting shot is as simple as this: either we change our tactics or perish.

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