Unusual floods in Kenya reveal climate change impacts: experts

Unusual floods in Kenya reveal climate change impacts: experts
# 06 June 2015 00:39 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Kenyan environmental experts say the heavy downpour which caused unusual fatal floods in the country during April and May could be a sign of the impacts of the global climate change, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Above normal rainfall was witnessed in many parts of the East African nation in the past two months with reports of at least 15 death in flood-affected Narok, a county west of the capital Nairobi.

In Homabay, Siaya and Kisumu counties in western Kenya, more than 2,000 families were forced to find alternative shelters as their homes and farms were submerged.

Local media indicate a loss of 60 lives with more than 2,000 households displaced from their low-lying homes in the two months, though the government has not released official figures.

A 24-hour torrential downpour also hit Nairobi in May. Streets were turned into rivulets, causing a major traffic disruption that many working people arrived home in the late hours of the night while others trapped for the whole night.

The World Meteorological Organization recorded more than 100mm in Nairobi, which is an equivalent of the total monthly rainfall collected in some of the stations in the country, while in contrast, some counties in the northeastern region are projected to experience below normal rainfall.

Kevin Ochieng, a Kenyan environmental and climate change expert, sees the increase in greenhouse gas emission from industries in urban areas as a contributing factor to the heavy downpour.

"The emission of the greenhouse gases has a big role in the extreme weather changes," Ochieng told Xinhua on Friday, also the World Environment Day.

"The industries use the fossil fuels which emit huge amounts of the carbon gases and form a blanket absorbing the heat. This therefore increases the rate of precipitation, and the science in it is that, there is more enhanced downpour," he explained.

In a country where more than 64 percent of the population uses wood as a their major source of fuel for cooking, cutting trees is a rampant exercise in most of the rural areas. The deforestation, the expert warned, greatly attributes to the climate change.

"In an area like Narok, even the wheat farmers are complaining of low harvest because of the poor weather. It is a concern that cuts its root in the changes happening in the environment," he said.

"The more (greenhouse) gases and the fewer trees to absorb the carbon that is released from the industries, the more extreme the weather is, directly affecting crop production and livestock farming," he added.

In its 2014 decadal analysis of temperatures in Africa, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international scientific body, noted an increased warming trend across Africa over the last 50 to 100 years, and thus an ongoing occurrence of the effects of climate change.

"Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society and the natural world," said the IPCC analysis.

Paul Makenzie, a Kenyan environmental scientist, believes the sudden changes in the weather pattern are a reflection of climate changes impacts.

"When floods come by surprise and spread equally within a short period of time means something has changed. This is the same case for the dry season," Makenzie said.

He said cutting of trees, including the shrubs, threatens the country's efforts towards mitigating the effects of climate change.

Kenya's ministry of environment have launched initiatives aiming to achieve a 10 percent vegetation cover in the country. Campaigns have been carried out to encourage schools, churches and self-help groups to spearhead tree planting activities within their neighborhoods.

Many non-governmental organizations are also sensitizing people on the use of energy saving stoves to cut emission of greenhouse gases and reduce the destruction of forests.