EDITORIAL: To avert disasters we must plan well

Sunday October 22 2017

Houses and property destroyed after heavy rains.

Houses and property destroyed after heavy rains. Torrential rains characterised by strong winds and flash floods have become common in recent years. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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The next two months have been predicted to have heavy rainfall and weather-related disasters as the rainy season intensifies.

A number of deaths have already been registered in different parts of the country since the rains began in August. Property and crops worth millions have been damaged.

Weather patterns continue to be unpredictable and extreme as years go by, a factor meteorologists blame on climate change. Torrential rains characterised by strong winds and flash floods have become common in recent years.

Yet year in, year out, we continue to lose lives and property in weather-related incidents to say nothing of hunger resulting from destruction of crops.

The government embarked on a programme to move people from high risk zones. Despite these efforts, some people still find themselves in locations which expose them to the wrath of Mother Nature.

The Rwanda Meteorological Agency maintains that while they are able to forecast the rains, they are not able to determine the extent of the damage, which largely depends on human settlement and prior planning.

Recent calamities proved that emergency services are equally wanting, with the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness indicating that they can’t map out well areas where disasters are likely to occur and put in place mitigation measures.

Averting disasters requires prior planning, co-ordination among concerned agencies and allocation of resources to deal with disasters.

While Rwanda has not experienced weather-related disasters of a high magnitude in recent years, it should be understood that even losing one person to weather-related calamities is not acceptable.

Government agencies and key stakeholders should work hand in hand to ensure that such risks of losing people and property in the rainy season are minimised.

We can learn from countries like the US which is able to minimise damage in occurrence of bad weather patterns such as the recent Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey.

The disasters could have caused loss of many lives and damage immense property if early planning was not done. It was all enabled by proper forecasting and early prediction of possible impact.

Rwanda Meteo says that it is capable of doing its part, given the technology at its disposal. What remains to avert possible crises is in the planning-building houses with the minimum standards that can withstand strong winds and creating water catchment areas and drainage channels to minimise the possibility of flooding.

While landslides are near impossible to predict, experts can figure out areas that can be prone to landslides and evacuate people ahead of time.