KINYUA: Best way to stop building collapse is to leave wetlands alone

The nation on Tuesday woke up to the gloomy news of a five-storey building collapsing in Kariobangi Estate, Nairobi. Fortunately, the collapse did not cause any injuries.

It’s an occurrence that quickly took me back to May when a six-storey building collapsed in Huruma, claiming 40 lives and leaving scores injured.

However, as I read through various details about the Kariobangi collapse, I realised that we simply don’t learn from our past mistakes.

There were claims from various leaders regarding the state of the building in the last few days, including on the manner in which the building collapsed. The Kenya Red Cross reported that the building had no tenants at the time of the collapse and that it had been marked for demolition.

However, area MCA Robert Mbatia disputed claims that the building had been marked for demolition, and instead argued that it was a new building that had just been completed, waiting to be occupied by unsuspecting tenants.

“The building was not marked for demolition. It is a new building and tenants are just moving in,” said the MCA.

To Kenyans though, this was just another obvious scare to their lives and those of their loved ones, and one that they had no way of averting except for the fact that fate had spared them this time.

Am saying it’s an obvious occurrence because it’s not the first time neither will it be the last time a building is collapsing in Nairobi City, unless the Nairobi County Government tightens the rope on procedures for constructing a building.

The common denominator in all these incidences is where these buildings are constructed.

The Huruma building had been built a few metres from a river; a place supposed to be preserved so as to protect the environment, but greedy tycoons are drying up swamps and rivers in order to construct structures.

The effects of building in a swampy place are adverse, because you will always fight the flow of the water within that region. Destruction of swamps causes pollution and degradation in local creeks and streams.

So it’s never too dry to be completely safe no matter the kind of measures employed to dry up the wetlands.

Since the collapse of the Huruma building, the county government of Nairobi assured residents that it would move with speed and demolish all buildings that were constructed in swampy areas, and those that didn’t follow the county’s laid guidelines regarding construction.

However that has not come to pass, with some wealthy individuals bribing the county officials to have their houses spared the wrath of the bulldozer.

Erecting structures in wetlands endangers people’s lives and destroys the environment. The late Prof Wangari Mathai fought tooth and nail to spare the now magical Karura forest from greedy developers who wanted to convert it to a residential estate. It is now a serene place that Nairobi residents enjoy.

Therefore the best way to avert the tragedy of buildings collapsing is to avoid building on riparian lands.


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