Residents of Budalang’i in Busia County may soon face the wrath of River Nzoia if the dyke protecting them from floods is not rehabilitated in time.
With the region experiencing heavy rains, a number of homesteads along the dyke have already been exposed to underground water seepage.
It is a ticking time bomb.
Mr Sylvester Oguti and Ms Jackline Achieng, residents of Igigo village in Bunyala North Ward, have expressed concerns that every other drop of the rain is a move closer to River Nzoia bursting its banks and in the process displacing them.
STARING AT DISASTER
Other villages starring at a disaster include Muumbiri, Sibuka, Busagwa, Buyuku, Siamunga, Khabanga, Makunda, Ruambwa and Nyadorera in the northern part of the constituency and Maduwa, Bukhuma, Bulwani, Iyanga, Runyu, Khajula and Bubamba on the southern end.
“The soil used to rehabilitate the dykes is slowly being washed away into the river by the rain every day. We are worried that if the dykes are not rehabilitated in time, we will remain homeless or even lose lives,” said Oguti.
WATER LEVELS RISE
There has been heavy downpour in the region which has caused a rise in water levels in River Nzoia, thus weakening the embankments.
While locals welcome the Sh5.3 billion Lower Nzoia irrigation and flood mitigation project that was launched in June by Deputy President William Ruto, the slow rehabilitation of the dykes that were constructed in the 1970s has diminished their hopes of a flood-free Budalang’i any time soon.
The delays have been occasioned by a compensation row between the National Land Commission (NLC) and residents who surrendered their land to the government for the project.
“Since we were young, the promise has been that the government will construct permanent dykes as a solution to the menace. It is unfortunate that 10 kilometres of the 34-kilometre stretch have been rehabilitated with soil which is easily washed away by rains,” lamented Ms Achieng’.
In Muumbiri village, another resident, Mr Samwel Magoba, is pondering on his next move should the rains continue, considering his home sits along the dyke.
MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND
“The chances of my family becoming homeless once again are very high going by the increasing water levels in the river. If the situation persists, we will be forced to move to higher ground,” said the former councillor.
The now worried residents have called on the government to intervene after the contractor who was rehabilitating the dykes removed equipment from the scene.
The low height of the dykes has also come under sharp focus with residents saying they cannot effectively prevent floods.
But there are those who believe that river training and dredging will offer a permanent solution to the menace other than building of permanent dykes.
A lobby group – Bunyala Development Forum –last year met a technical team from the Ministry of Water and Sanitation to explore possibilities of redesigning the improvement of flood mitigation structures (IFMS) of the project.
Mr Ohenjo Nyang’ori, the chairman of the group, said river training and dredging of the channel will substitute human displacement and therefore do away with the issue of land compensation.
“It is increasingly becoming clear that river training and dredging will offer a lasting solution to the perennial flooding problem in Budalang’i. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the IFMS designs proposed by the project consultants have many engineering flaws to offer permanent solution,” he said.