top of page
  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Designing for Water Acceptance

If you want to build a safe place you can go to relax, would you create a design that prevents you from entering the place? 

If this seems illogical, then think about how we design safe places for water to go in urban areas. We design our urban areas to prevent water from entering when it rains then we complain we are short of water. Before you say rural areas are also short of water, the answer is yes, AND, how many rural areas do we design to store large amounts of rain water? 

We build dams but the sky rains every where and the dam is in a specific location so we are then stuck praying that the rain clouds go to where the dam was built. Then we throw garbage and sewage into the rivers and lakes then say we are short of fresh water. 

Instead, we could find ways to build our communities so that we let in fresh water. 

Planning Urban Rivers and Streams just like we plan roads. Think of transportation and delivery systems. Think of building delivery systems that allow water to transport itself to where we need it every time it rains. Seoul has succeeded. 

Instead of thinking water collection can only happen horizontally, we can install upside down "umbrellas" that look like colourful flowers and pipe rain water where we need it to flow (away from streets and to water treatment plants). The concept, albeit without the colours, is already working in Tåsinge Plads (Square), Copenhaguen and includes an attractive water garden. 

We can also push technology and planning to a grand scale by building sponge cities. Shanghai and Wuhan have started. 

Climate Change effects include increased urban flood risk. 

The Role of Climate Change in Urban Flood Risk Management Today - World Bank Group

There will also be increased flooding in rural areas that are deforested and have minimal ground cover (plants that cover the ground). Yes, the areas are dry which makes it difficult to grow trees. However, if we don't start the problem of extreme dryness and extreme flooding will get worse, not better.   

It is important to start immediately because just planting trees that can sustain themselves takes at least 5 years of maintenance. Planting trees alone does not restore the plant biodiversity. Full biodiversity restoration typically takes longer. Without plant biodiversity there is still a dry land challenge even when tree coverage has increased. 

Climate change impacts detection in dry forested ecosystem as indicated by vegetation cover change in —Laikipia, of Kenya (2018)

Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests (2017)

The good news is that we have solutions that can be implemented. In addition to the above water catchment Innovations, there are also ecological measures that can be used by both those trained in plant ecology and those trained in social sciences such as business, communication, sociology and law. 

Forum on Biodiversity and Global Forest Restoration Summary Report and Plan

Halting and restoring species loss: incorporating the concepts of extinction debt, ecological trap and dark diversity into conservation and restoration law (2017)

The same way we strive to avoid financial debt, let us also avoid extinction debt (time delay between an ecological change and the extinction of species). Just because the extinction is not immediate does not mean the extinction is not happening. The time delay is a natural safeguard to give us time for ecological regeneration and restoration.

Change the story by designing watersheds that restore the land 


Adams Arcade, Kilimani Road off Elgeyo Marakwet Rd

P.O BOX 67545-00200

Nairobi, Kenya

Phone: +254 (20) 3873057 / (20) 3860158 / (20) 3860157

Phone: +254 (0) 721342696


40 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page