HomeAnalysisEditors's Memo: Move people out of flood-prone areas

Editors’s Memo: Move people out of flood-prone areas

Successive extreme weather phenomena have shown without a doubt that climate change has come around to taunt the southern African region. Tropical cyclones and storms are visiting upon the region death, destruction and suffering.

Zimbabwe, which is way inland compared to Malawi and Zambia, has not been spared the scourge of these cyclones which always begin in the Indian Ocean and devastate Mozambique most.

But many interventions can be made to alleviate the Zimbabwean scenario.

Year after year we hear stories of devastation in specific areas in low-lying districts of the Zambezi Basin such as Muzarabani.

Only in the past week inhabitants of these god-forsaken areas were again moaning about the destruction of their infrastructure by the recent tropical storm dubbed Ana.

Homes, schools, hospitals and bridges were destroyed leaving people stranded and in need of food aid.

A handful were reported to have lost their lives.

The inhabitants were also crying for farming inputs saying the heavy rains had destroyed their crops and they therefore needed to replant.

While they were crying about Storm Ana, another storm, Batsirai, was said to be building up around Madagascar and, at first, people thought it would affect Zimbabwe the way Ana had. Luckily, Batsirai was discovered to be too far from Zimbabwe to have the same devastating effects.

Now a question arises!

How much longer are the people of these flood-prone areas going to continue to cry over these adverse weather conditions?

How much longer can the government and donor partners continue to deal with these scenarios that have become as predictable as the rising and setting of the son?

There is something kind of futile in the effort to keep on pouring not only the nation’s sympathy but also an immense amount of resources into these areas.

A lasting solution has to be figured out.

The government must begin to explore the feasibility of relocating these people to higher ground. Of course there will be an outcry about “ancestral lands”, so and so forth, but that is the only permanent solution to the problem.

When faced with a new normal, people have to adjust to it otherwise they get left behind by the wheels of change.

In this case, change is a matter of life and death.

The peoples of the floodplains have no choice but to seek relocation.

The argument that they cannot leave their ancestral lands is archaic in the face of the inevitable effects of the new phenomenon called climate change.

The areas most affected by floods are also the hottest in the country, sometimes getting above 40°C.

So, even in normal circumstances the areas are not fit for human habitation.

Besides the heat the areas are where mosquitoes and tsetse fly breed most exposing the people to life-threatening diseases.

It’s not too unfeeling to say the areas are fit only to be wildlife wildernesses.  In fact, most game reserves are situated in these areas and there is a lot of human-wildlife conflict.

So the argument for relocation is compelling. There should be enough land in Zimbabwe to make this possible. If they cannot be relocated en masse, they can be spread around the country; the argument for lifting them en bloc to new resettlement areas is as old-fashioned as their adherence to the norm called “ancestral lands”.

It might not be surprising that a lot of these perennial victims of cyclones have already seen the folly and futility of remaining stuck in these areas, so it won’t take a lot of convincing to have them move. If they don’t know what’s good for them, they may have to be pushed.

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