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Somalia: Can Shabelle River flooding be controlled? [Op-Ed]


It’s a tradition for Shabelle River to overflow its banks, and sweep through riverine villages in central and Southern Somalia. Flash floods are also observed in the Major towns of Beledweyne, Jowhar and Afgoi where some are extreme downstream vicinities.

Erstwhile records show the extent of worries of residents, and inability of local authorities to tackle the scenarios. Will imminent threats of flood be ever deterred? Of course this is not something else but normally questions wandering in the minds of many-more especially those who have long been affected by floodings.

I have yet to come across study revealing the General Flood Characteristics of Shabelle River. Nonetheless I do commend Flood Alert report issued by Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) in coordination with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Both moderate and heavy rains are expected in Eastern Ethiopia and inside Somalia, with reports revealing that Shabelle River is at full crest in Jowhar as of Sunday morning.

Not only will Shabelle River cause flooding and damage to homes but Juba River which last year destroyed crop stores in several villages including Makalagow, Mashaqo and Kabsuma is likely to threaten to burst banks.

Depth of rainfall kept varying between 16th and 17th of April, and heaviest rains fell over Beledweyne, Doollow and Mogadishu at 103mm, 80mm and 77mm precipitation depths respectively.

Flood Mitigation

Lack of effective central government is perhaps another obstacle to finding visible solution to the flooding of Shabelle and Jubba Rivers. Somalia Federal Government might hold consultations with the international partners entrusted to the responsibilities of monitoring water resource programmes in the country on the ways forward.

Integrated Development Master Plan Study Project touching on groundbreaking researches into the climatology, Hydrology, Hydrogeology and irrigation and drainage characteristics of Shabelle and Jubba rivers may besides be much-needed.

Shabelle River originates at incredibly rising elevation from Bale Mountain ranges, and interestingly it decreases erosion progressively before entering Somalia through Mustahil and Feer-Feer.

All Somali regions do not completely fall in the basins of Shabelle and Jubba rivers.However based on the depths recorded at rain-gauge stations in Somalia, data is critically important for precautionary measures in the mitigations of imminent floods.

Prior to extensive river gauging networks, and the construction of flood mitigation structures-crumbling levees along Shabelle river in the towns of Jowhar and Beledweyne should be re-erected. In accordance with economically feasible measures, the government can construct separate spillway or over-flow dam to make some reliefs.

Construction of multi-purpose dam which can hold the flood waters upstream, generate electrical energy and at the same time would release required amounts of water to the downstream farmers across either river appears too costy; yet cumbersome but it is at all costs unavoidable in the near future.

Shabelle River receives substantial inflow from watersheds in the neighboring country and consecutive rainy days as it has been in the last four days. Henceforth, peak discharges of river at over a dozen reaches and the impermeability of riverside soils inside Somalia should be studied by hydrologists and other relevant bodies.

Abdirashid M. Dahir is a student of civil engineering, and has served as intern field engineer. Follow him on twitter @Somaliajunkie or he can be reached at ducale114@gmail.com.

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