Floods May Sweep Away Country's Gains

Published on Tuesday 29th September 2009

The expected heavy rainfall has the potential to wipe out at least 11 per cent of Kenya's wealth unless proper preventative measures are put in place.

Among the key areas to be affected are roads, water supply systems and health due to a possible outbreak of water borne and related ailments.

The 11 per cent damage on the economy is the same as that which the 1997/98 El Nino rains caused to the country as contained in a World Bank Report titled Toward a Water-Secure Kenya.

With the current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated at ($34,507 million) Sh2.6 trillion - 2008 World Bank Estimate - the loss could translate to at least Sh284.7 billion over and above what the government plans to spend on development expenditure this year.

"The immediate effect of the rain will be to suppress economic activities," economic analyst Robert Shaw says adding that the full effect on the economy will depend on how much rainfall will be received. "We are quite vulnerable even if we do not get as much rain as El Nino."

Poor people and those on the lower side of the middle class will be the worst hit with the report indicating that effects of the 1997 floods resulted in the number of those living below the poverty line increasing from 48 per cent in 1994 to 52 per cent in 2000 and worsening to 56 per cent by 2001.

"The poor and marginal communities, both rural and urban are particularly vulnerable to floods and droughts due to their limited options and consequent habitation in marginal and vulnerable areas," the report says.

The heavy rainfall is forecast to fall between August 2009 and March 2010, with some parts of Western and Nyanza provinces already recording more than normal (over 100 per cent) rainfall. Onset of rain in other parts of the country is expected to start latest by the second week of October.

Although forecast to fall at a moderate rate compared to the heavy rainfall of 1997/98, the terrain has changed for the worse with most of the vegetation cover having been lost mostly through human activity.

"Over the past 10 years we have carried out a systematic degradation of our vegetation which makes the country more vulnerable regardless of whether we receive heavy rainfall or not," said Mr Shaw.

Total country forest cover has reduced from 5 per cent in 2000 to the current less than 2 per cent.

Among the worst hit sectors during the 1997-98 El Nino rains was transport with the damaged roads taking over Sh62 billion to repair.

Water supply infrastructure damage cost was estimated at Sh3.6 billion with that of treating water borne diseases and other related ailments put at Sh4.5 billion.

"The full losses are probably much greater because these conservative estimates did not include costs that were difficult to quantify or indirect losses, such as those from famine, hunger and malnutrition," says World Bank.

Combined with the effect of La Nina drought of 1998/99, which wiped out at least 16 per cent of GDP in each of the two years, the country's GPD growth dropped from 4.6 per cent to negative 0.3 per cent.


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