The inadequacy of a well-structured drainage system has been a persistent problem in Addis Abeba for decades. As the drainage system is not properly maintained and is not properly constructed at all, it is common to see waste, growing plants and leakages hindering water flow down to the drains, which usually leads to flooding whenever the summer season approaches. Also, the existing drain pipes are not large enough to ensure smooth flow of water, creating an inconvenience for pedestrians as well as for car owners, reports SAMSON BERHANE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
Ever since it became operational three years ago, for Decent Bar & Restaurant, located just behind Millennium Hall along the airport road, flooding has been a big concern owing to the poor drainage infrastructure in the area. With a poor drainage system, the area usually gets engulfed in flood waters every time it rains.
“This is what happens when you have aged and inadequate drainage infrastructures,” said Tesfaye Abate, owner of Decent, where the water stands nearly foot deep whenever rain comes.
Except on old drainage tubes, there is no clear drainage system constructed near the Bar, which at least diverts water to either a river or pool when downpours batter the area. He is alive to the fact that his businesses will be under risk if a water path is not constructed before the coming of the next two rainy months.
“It seems like nobody is willing to fix the problem even though the problem is getting worse and worse every day,” he said.
Bereket Ali, a shoe shiner who sees the day-to-day activities of people in front of Decent while sitting in his chair, watches many commuters finding trouble to pass through this road.
The poor drainage system seems to be an obvious problem for him, who moved to Addis from Wolayita four years ago. Since he started to work in the area, whenever it rains, the road will be flooded with water, becoming a daunting task for anyone who passes by this way.
“Many people wait until the water recedes before they move,” he said. “It is the worst experience for pedestrians.”
Although Addis Abeba has seen a lot of infrastructural developments over the past two decades, the drainage system of the city has always been criticised for being outdated and old. It is common to see that the streets of the city are flooded with rain water as the summer season approaches. Lack of well-designed drainage and sewerage systems are the clear manifestation of the problem.
Many areas in the city are getting inundated due to rains as there is no provision to divert the water. Occupied localities are also presenting an unpleasant look with small pools on road margins due to the rain.
Travelling on roads for drivers and pedestrians has become a nightmarish experience. The intensity of the problem has been turning from bad to worse when it rains intermittently. Furthermore, water stagnation is so severe that traffic jams have become part of routine life for road users.
Lack of attention from the city administration to improve the drainage system of the city was one of the primary concerns of many pedestrians in the city, including Berhanu Teka, a mechanic, who commonly uses Yohannes Street near Spa Service Enterprise, one the oldest spas in the city.
“I hate coming here during the summer season,” he said, as he usually comes to this area from around Tikur Anbessa to buy some spare parts for his customers.
He watches the same kind of problem in all parts of the city in the summer season. Besides the poor drainage system of the city, he believes clogged drains are also another factor for the flash floods that the city experiences during the summer season.
“I see clogged drainage tubes with plastic bags and stems of Khat,” he said.
Following the clogging observed in many parts of the city, the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA), the mandated government body which looks after the drainage system of the city, has organised 15 teams that clean the wastes and temporarily fix the drainage system in all directions of the city. Each of the teams has 25 members, totalling 375 people.
“There is so much waste to clean inside the drainage tubes of the city,” said Yitbarek Zerihun, head of the team at the Authority. “Unless it is fixed quickly, it will cause a flood.”
Also, he believes the fact that almost all sewerage lines of the city are mixed with the drainage pipes of the city, make the cleaning of the pipes necessary.
In Addis, in addition to the low percentage of housing units with flush toilets in the city, liquid waste discharged by more than 90pc of the population is untreated and connected to the storm water drainage system.
Not only is there clogging of the drains, the drainage lines of the city, according to AACRA, are also not sufficient enough for the city. Less than 35pc of the city’s road mileage is equipped with drainage lines, with non-asphalted and secondary roads as the primary victims.
“Almost all drainage lines of main roads are serving beyond their capacity as the majority of the secondary roads do not have drainage pipes at all,” said Yitbarek.
Agreeing with Yitbarek, Tesfaye Admasu, a civil engineer with over two and a half decades of experience, says the narrowness of the pipe diameter is also another reason for the weak drainage system in the city.
Although the standard width of the pipe should be no less than one metre, most of the pipes in the city are between 40cm and 55cm, according to the Authority.
“This coupled with the boom in construction of buildings and houses deters the water to join rivers on the surface, making the drainage system of the city worse,” he said. “All of the city’s drainage system must be redesigned and built.”
In 2015, a study conducted by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) found that the city faces persistent shocks and stresses related to its unprecedented rapid urbanisation including urban flooding, fire, earthquakes, water scarcity, unemployment and social vulnerability.
The study suggested that enhancing resilience in Addis Abeba necessitates actions and investments oriented towards implementing existing plans and regulations, establishing a clear framework for risk management as well as investing in infrastructure that meets existing and future needs.
Based on the study, to address flooding arising from surface water run-off, the World Bank is helping AACRA to design the storm drainage master plan of the city.
“I am sure the master plan will bring a change if it is implemented properly,” said Tesfaye. “The Authority should start the implementation by changing pipes of aged roads as they are currently at a critical stage.”
Realising the problem, the Authority is undertaking a study to design a drainage master plan with a loan of 62.5 million Br from the World Bank. The Authority has planned to implement the plan in the next three years. The purpose of the plan is to provide a guidance and planning document that provides basic information essential for a sound municipal drainage system as well as to know the requirements for the current and future conditions of the system.
Until then, the city administration identified rivers and areas vulnerable to drainage issues to transform them into parks, identifying 170 spots so far.
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