The unending Kampala floods

What you need to know:

  • Kampala city was set up on the historical seven hills and been had been planned well with adequate environmental safeguards in place to minimise the such hiccups.

Whenever it rains in Kampala City, all motorists and road users hit the road to apparently go back home before the roads flood! Oh gosh it is mayhem! Last week, when New York City flooded, those who want to appease Ugandans referred to the New York floods as something that can happen anywhere and hence Kampala City is not exceptional.

Kampala city was set up on the historical seven hills and been had been planned well with adequate environmental safeguards in place to minimise the such hiccups. The colonialists did a good job at planning the city but the day we the dark-skinned endowed homosapiens  took over, things started going south, more so from the 1980s onwards.

Growing up as a child in Naguru Housing Estate  in Kampala from the early  1970s and having done my kindergarten school at Safari Kindergarten , Lugogo, (now home to the Baptist Church) and next to Oryx Petrol Station. I remember the Lugogo belt being heavily forested with heavily buttressed  mango trees in a straight line  all the way from the present Nakawa market,  UMA showgrounds , past the Naguru hospital, Legends Rugby club, the Indian cremation grounds, Oryx fuel station,  to Shell Club Lugogo .

There was a fast running stream that ran through Kabanyanya (where we have car depots) which poured its waters in the then great Nakivubo channel. Being children, we dreaded crossing this stream, although there was a provision of a pedestrian bridge to cross at the present day Forest Mall . This was a natural habitant.

 During that time, Lugogo was home to more than six very large football pitches with a number of other sports facilities and no wonder Naguru and Nakawa housing estates were the sports houses for all the prominent sportsmen of the time in all fields of sports. These were all well preserved green and catchment areas which acted as water pathways .

Bugolobi and Kyambogo were clear pathways for water, particularly at the spot where huge and numerous car depots were built.

Then came the era of the so called sparodic development and the huge appetite for land in the  post 1986 era.

 Every one needed landed in Kampala! Growing up in Naguru Housing Estate,  I didn’t hear of our parents nursing an exaggerated and huge appetite for land at that time. Could it have been their life style and simplicity at the time? Why the sudden gluttony over land after post 1986 ?

Any way, land became an issue and a new word ‘ investors’ came into the economics of Uganda. The investors badly needed to grow the economy. The demand to appease investors coupled by demented mindsets among urban planners, as well as political arm twisting of technocrats who came to occupy the then Kampala City Council and later Kampala Capital City Authority, led to  a disaster  approach towards infrastructure development. All water ways and paths were sold.

People started building  anywhere they wanted for as long as they had favourable bank balances  and political shirt collars  to silence  the urban development officers, town clerks and building supervisors.

 Slowly but surely, they blocked the natural pathways of the water as they patted themselves on the back claiming to be purposeful investors.

While they moved around gyrating through boardrooms, the water kept trying to reroute. Every new route it sought, was eventually blocked by another blind as a bat investor. Eventually, enough was enough and the water had to create a way where there was now no way.

The myopic investors sought solace in the city officials, only to discover that they were another bunch of inept officials. They keep watch over a deteriorating city and choose to do nothing about the situation probably hoping that the worse things got, the more money they would make through doing remedial works.

Seeing what has now come to be called “River Kyambogo” does each time we have a semblance of heavy rains, I am not only disgusted but also happy in equal measure. I am disgusted because we have numerous individuals earning heavily under the guise of being employed to plan for us the public yet all they do is spend their working hours rotating in their office seats and at best hoping from one meeting to another, scheming for allowances. I am happy because the natural substance called water is turning apparently intelligent homosapiens into fools by teaching them a lesson!

Unless we put urban planning back on board, within a decade, we shall be speaking more about the past glory of this city.

The now UMA Show Grounds was a well preserved and protected green belt. This was a picnic site with a botanical garden and as families from Naguru and Nakawa housing estates, this was our Sunday holiday site. Photography sites were all over. At the same UMA grounds, there is still a pond of water next to one of the main halls. This was home to water ducks and geese that added glamour and beauty to this picnic site. Oh oh oh oh the memories of the green Lugogo belt!

Percy Mulamba, Concerned citizen