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  • Ingrid Martha Kintu, Makerere University

Community Flood Mapping Activity in Bwaise and Kalerwe, Uganda

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

On the 26th of July, 2019, a team of YouthMappers from the Makerere University chapter, GeoYouthMappers, took part in a community flood vulnerability mapping activity in Kalerwe and Bwaise slums in Kawempe division in Kampala. This was based on the initiative of Dr. Henry Bulley, a Professor of Geography and GIScience at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and coordinated by a YouthMappers Regional Ambassador, Ingrid Martha Kintu, with support from the Uganda Red Cross team. Dr. Bulley was in Kampala as part of a Carnegie Africa Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) sponsored travel on a project aimed at Addressing Perennial Flooding in Ghana and Uganda by harnessing capacity and research into integrated Landscape-based assessments and Geospatial Science & technology (GIST). The day’s flood mapping event started with a briefing by the Red Cross volunteers, who talked to the YouthMappers about the seven core principles of Red Cross humanitarian work, and the symbolism that people attach to anyone wearing the Red Cross jacket. Working with the Red Cross facilitated interactions with the target communities of Bwaise and Kalerwe, two informal settlements in Kampala district.

Team briefing by the Uganda Red Cross Team

Flood Vulnerability Data Collection

Bwaise and Kalerwe were selected for this exercise because they are notoriously known for flooding during heavy downpours in the city. These areas are low lying and previously swamp lands, such that water flows and collects in these areas easily during rainfall events. More often than not, the residents in these areas are forced to vacate their homes during heavy downpours. Most have to scoop water out of their houses with buckets and basins. The businesses in these areas are greatly affected when it floods to the extent that some schools and shops close most of the day. At the same time, roads flood making them impassable and hence impairing movement from one point to another. Despite the reports made by the residents, very little action has been done to alleviate the situation in this area. These floods also cause residents to lose their property which is a major setback to their livelihood. Not to mention increasing the risk of spread of diseases such as Cholera.

Part of the team during data collection

Bwaise and Kalerwe are just two areas of many around Kampala that are greatly affected by floods. Others include Kireka, Lufuka, Najjanankumbi, Namasuba and Zana. In all these areas, it is unanimously agreed upon that the major causes of these floods are poor disposal of waste which in turn clogs the drainages as well as poor drainage. According to an article written by Jeff Lule in the New Vision, following a flood which occurred back in 2010, only two out of the nine existing drainages were functioning and thus overwhelmed such that water backed up and caused floods in Kawempe division.

Some of the features collected

Based on this rationale, data collection forms for drainages and rubbish dumps were created. This was done using Kobo Collect, an open source data collection tool. Attributes such as the geographic location, vegetation close to these features, proximity to roads and land use type were collected. The team was briefed by the Uganda Red Cross team on the dos and don’ts as well as the expected conduct while collecting the data. The teams started by collecting data in Bwaise area and later, in Kalerwe area. A total of 562 points were collected, comprising 316 from Bwaise and 246 from Kalerwe. Additionally, there were 303 points for drainage and 259 data points collected for rubbish dumps, as shown in the map below.

Data Collected

Reflection and Future Activities

Overall, this one-day flood vulnerability data collection exercise was a success and highlights the synergy in working with community partners such as the Ugandan Red Cross to facilitate the process. The exercise has also provided a snapshot of what could be achieved if this process is further developed for a longer period of time and to cover more areas other than the two target areas of Bwaise and Kalerwe. As Professor explained in one of our meetings, this type of community-based flood vulnerability mapping achieves two main objectives. First it provides detailed geospatial information on the locations and types of obstructions to water flow in informal settlements with limited water and sanitation infrastructure. This is useful information for flood disaster resilience planning by City Officials. Additionally, the process of the collecting data on rubbish dumps and drainages in itself helps to enlighten the residents of these slum communities about the aggravated dangers of indiscriminate rubbish dumps and clogged drainages, given the low-lying nature of their communities. Hopefully, such information may help people rethink their waste disposal habits, to reduce their risk of flooding.

One of the discussions with Dr. Bulley and the YouthMappers chapter at Makerere University as well as the Ugandan Red Cross was that, the flood vulnerability mapping activity in Bwaise and Kalerwe could be the genesis to the creation of database which will enhance disaster resilience and sustainable mitigation efforts that engage residents in marginal or informal slums settlements within Kampala and at the urban periphery of the city. The GeoYouthMappers chapter in Makerere University is looking forward to contribute to an expanded flood disaster resilience data collection initiative in the near future.

Ingrid Martha Kintu is a graduate of Bsc. Land Surveying and Geomatics under the School of Built Environment at Makerere University, Uganda. She had the opportunity to be trained in the use of OSM tools and since then has used these skills to train others in the GeoYouthMappers chapter at Makerere University. She is very passionate about creating open data and organizing any activity that involves mapping for humanitarian causes. Ingrid is a 2017 YouthMappers Research Fellow mapping community resilience within Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa district, Uganda. She is determined to continue educating others about GIS applications and working with the mapping community.

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