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DR DANIEL MUTEGI GITI: Why we need Climate Proofed Development in counties and the nation at large

Kenya is currently experiencing heavy rains in many parts of the country. In many of the places, these torrential rains have brought havoc and untold suffering to the people who can no longer go on with their normal lives because critical infrastructure has been interfered with by the rains. Some roads and power lines have been cut off. This has made life unbearable for residents. 
A flooded residence after heavy rains/FILE 
Once the rains subside, the public sector will have to spend considerable funds to restore these services, despite our limited financial resources at a time like now. Climate experts have pointed out that we are in the era of global climatic changes and what is being witnessed now may continue for a long time to come.

The need to mitigate and address issues of climate change and global warming necessitated the creation of the State Department for Environment and Climate Change. It is expected that counties will also create similar policy and institutional structures to combat climate change and global warming. This is because all climate change impacts are felt in counties first before cumulatively being felt in the nation. 

Kenya National Adaptation Plan (2015-2030) and the National Climate Change Response Strategy recognize that climatic change is here to stay, and provide for actions geared towards making our economy and infrastructure resilient enough with the anticipated changes. These policy documents call for development that takes into cognizance this fact of climate change. 

One way of undertaking such development which can withstand extreme weather and climatic conditions is climate proofing for development. Climate proofing for development has been cited as a methodological approach through which countries are able to integrate issues of climate change into the development planning. It makes countries to implement projects while at the same time taking into consideration current and future projections on climate change. This makes the resultant development projects to be more climate change resilient for sustainability. We must recognize that climate change is already with us and actions are required towards adaptation and coping mechanisms. We have seen stories of water scarcity and more extreme and intense weather conditions like flooding and heat waves which in turn leads to huge loss of biodiversity, migration, conflicts and health threats due to emerging disease resistant conditions. Many developing countries like Kenya rely on the natural resources and have little adaptation mechanisms in case of default. 

Going forward, our infrastructure developments must bear the imprint of climate change adaptation and coping mechanisms. We must have roads and other infrastructure which are done in a way that in case of flooding, people can still continue to move and vehicles will not be stopped by such extreme occurrence.

Engineers should not just design roads but should design them for good and bad weather. The designs and actual construction of the roads and road infrastructure should provide for adequate drainage and roads slope stabilization works should be integral to road building. Housing should not just be built but should be put up with probability of weather misbehaving and as such ring-fencing households from strong winds and floods should be planned for and undertaken.

Climate change proofing makes it possible for infrastructure to withstand extreme weather so that in cases of such occurrences, they do not affect our livelihoods, tourism and core critical services which keep the nation moving forward. This is what sustainable development is all about – integrating all key components in the development of a country. 

The recent earthquakes in Syria and Turkiye (Turkey has changed its name to Turkiye) demonstrated the importance of undertaking development that is climate and earthquake proofed. Houses and infrastructure in areas where earthquake proofed structures had been put in place withstood the earthquake shocks and hence survived to an extent. Areas that didn’t have earthquake proofed structures suffered a great deal. Climate proofed infrastructure will be impacted by climate change and climate variability on one hand, but it will also be essential for building resilience to the climate change impacts. 

The message is that our counties must ensure and promote policies and programmes that support tree planting along the roads, in the markets, towns, in built up residential areas, in homesteads and other infrastructure. Our counties should not be concrete jungles or kilns to burn our people and planting trees alongside any development ensures harmonious existence with nature. In Genesis chapter 2 verses 8 and 9, God planted a garden and He put man to till and work on that garden, planting trees is fulfilling God’s instruction and charge to humanity. 

Secondly, owing to the massive solar insulation that is found in our counties, there is need to encourage utilization of solar energy in homes and institutions. Counties should encourage the use of and reliance on green energy- solar, wind, geothermal among others to replace the expensive hydro and thermal energy sources.

Thirdly, housing should be built using adaptable and environmentally sound materials and designs that gives an allowance for flooding, ensures maximum natural ventilation and can withstand harsh weather. 

Our counties and nation are undergoing a tremendous civilization and advancement drive and actions must be taken to ensure climate change and variability are taken into consideration into any development. 

In the history of urbanization and country developments, which began in Mesopotamia between river Euphrates and Tigris- these rivers are mentioned in Genesis chapter 2 verses 14 as the rivers that would water the Garden of Eden. The Mesopotamian civilization (which occupied areas of present-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkiye) began around 5400 BC.

Civilizations which did not properly consider climatic changes in their development process like Ur – which was a coastal city and was affected by shift of the sea hence moving inwards and Uruk- of the Sumerian and Babylonian empire times were abandoned because they failed to read the sign of the times. Civilizations like Egypt which incorporated more of flooding considerations from river Nile in the planning of their dispersed urban centres were able to survive for long. We ought to learn from antiquity. 


Daniel Mutegi Giti, PhD; is an Urban Management, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) & Environment Specialist.

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