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Nairobi, Kenya, 14 Nov 06

Cities in Africa are facing a threat occasioned by floods caused by climate change, according to a new study this week by an international non-governmental organization.

In a study of seven African cities,  Action Aid said global warming was bringing chronic flooding to the cities, which could be just as disastrous for poor urbanites as droughts are for farmers.

“Climate change will increase the vulnerability of the urban poor throughout Africa. Already many are forced to live in hazardous places, building their homes and growing their food on floodplains in towns and cities,” the report launched at the ongoing United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Nairobi.

The study, conducted in Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Accra, Free Town, Sierra Leone and Maputo found that one of the major problems uncovered was that there were few, if any, collective mechanisms either for reducing flood risks, or for managing floods once they happen.

 “We are not included in decision-making processes …. If we were, we could form residents’ associations to improve our own welfare and response to emergencies. We can partner with City Corporation of Nairobi to plant trees along the riverbank, dig canals, trenches and drainage next to our houses,” a resident of Mabatini in Nairobi is quoted saying.

“In the last 30 years, natural disasters have affected five times more people than they did only a generation ago. As our climate changes things are getting worse, threatening more extreme weather,” UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, told delegates at the opening of the climate change conference.

UN figures show that this year alone, 117 million people around the world have suffered from some 300 natural disasters brought about by climate change, including devastating droughts in China and Africa, and massive flooding in Asia and Africa, costing nearly $15 billion in damages.

Action Aid said flood hazards are natural phenomena, but damage and losses from floods are the consequence of human action, adding that urbanisation aggravated flooding by restricting where flood waters can go, covering large parts of the ground with roofs, roads and pavements, obstructing sections of natural channels and building drains that ensure that water
moves to rivers faster than it did under natural conditions.

“As more people crowd into cities, so the effects intensify. As a result, even quite moderate storms produce high flows in rivers because there are more hard surfaces and drains,” the report says.

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