The Kibera Flood Line (Rev 02 15.12.22)
Physical flood markers that provide community amenities and communicate flood-risk
This image shows some initial ideas on how different typologies could be developed to respond to the varying conditions encountered in the slum: 1. showing river levels along the bank in mural form using local artists, 2. building community amenities (such as benches) adjacent to drainageways 3. freestanding portal structures double as washing lines (major drainage, access and laundry areas often occur at the same point).
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
In many informal areas rents are cheaper along rivers and streams where flood risk is higher, attracting the poorest and most vulnerable residents. In Kibera, 52% of residents reported flooding of their dwellings in the long-rains of April and May 2015, with 10% of households forced to re-locate (from a survey of 963 households by KDI in June 2015). People are not always aware of the level of risk and structure “owners” are often not transparent with potential renters. In the dry season it is hard to picture the river flooding, even with prior experience. While some of this information may be available to government it is not readily available to residents. While 40% of Kibera residents have internet-access by phone, some residents may find it challenging to access, research or visualize this type of information online.
To address this we propose to use physical markers, using creative design and artwork, that will show the high-water level at various key points to help new and existing residents make better decisions about where to live, and/or how to protect their buildings. Three typologies are considered to respond to the varying conditions encountered in the slum and provide community amenities 1. showing river levels along the bank in mural form using local artists, 2. building community amenities (such as benches) adjacent to drainageways 3. freestanding portal structures double as washing lines (drainage, access and laundry areas often occur at the same point).
Local residents will gain community amenities as well as reliable and accessible information on flood levels. The chieftaincy and local government will be reminded of their responsibilities by the physical presence of the structures/artwork. The flood-risk map for Kibera that informs the design of the physical structures has the potential to enable a more nuanced understanding of risk at the governmental level and the actual needs for resettlement versus other resilience measures.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
The challenge of flooding in Kibera and other informal settlements is set to become more severe over time as increased urbanization and higher-intensity rainfall events in East Africa drive flash-flooding and overloading of drainage. Our experiences in Kibera have demonstrated that residents have sophisticated knowledge about the consequences of climate change, how to act quickly and effectively to respond to short-term climate risks and also what needs exist to build resilience in the longer-term. This project adds important practical information to enable local resilience building, either in better-decision making (i.e. avoiding high-risk areas), or in individual or community investments in physical upgrading.
From our household survey a significant proportion of households have reported some level of adaptation that reduces flood risk in their homes and at the community level households have reported taking part in drainage clearance/ improvement activities and flood wall protection projects. This information will enable those autonomous community efforts while reminding the government or their own responsibilities.
One of the requirements for this idea is the need for an accurate flood-extents map of Kibera. As explained in our Flood Risk Portal idea it is expected that a flood-risk map for Kibera grounded in up to date community information would enable a more nuanced understanding of risk and the actual needs for resettlement versus other adaptation and resilience measures at the governmental level, and hence alternatives to large-scale displacement.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
KDI is a design and community development organization that partners with communities living in extreme poverty to physically transform degraded environments, build social cohesion and grow resilience. KDI has been working with residents and community partners in Kibera since 2006.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
This is a new idea that is coming out of ongoing work. KDI is currently leading a two-year (2015-2016) research/action program on integrating community perspectives to build resilience to flooding in Kibera. One of the aims of the project is to produce a flood-risk map for Kibera that would combine flood extents with data on vulnerability collected with residents. One of the questions we’re exploring for a next stage in this work is how, by whom and for what could the flood-risk map be used. A webtool (as proposed in another of our submitted ideas “Flood-Risk-Portal”) is one way to give location specific advice to serve both residents and government. At the same time we recognize that not everyone can readily access information from the internet, even if mobile internet penetration is high. The “Kibera Flood Line” is hence designed to communicate with people living in the most vulnerable areas who don’t necessarily have access to internet.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
Flood markers are not a new idea by themselves, but applying in this context (and with a focus on art and dual-functionality) is a new idea as far as we know. Making the markers into community amenities is a way of drawing attention to the risk information they carry, not only once completed and functional but also in the process of design. By engaging residents in the identification of the locations and discussing which amenities are needed we can begin conversations on risk and community needs. The workshops guiding this process will simultaneously educate the community and increase awareness about the local flood risk, derived from the flood modelling, and also introduce some of the potential responses (local soft and hard adaptations and even relocation). there is an opportunity to use sustainable and local materials to reduce cost and maximize the locations that the markers could be introduced. The projects could engage local artists and help communicate climate change issues to a wider Kibera audience. KDi combines the design skills and community presence to deliver pilots of the idea and has already produced similar projects.
Popular laundry pad on the Ngong River developed at Kibera Public Space Project 05 in 2013, demonstrating the prevalence of washing needs in the flood-zones. This location is also great for a mural installation on the river side of the structure.
Popular laundry pad on the Ngong River developed at Kibera Public Space Project 03, demonstrating the prevalence of washing needs in the flood-zones.
"Request for Proposal" from artists from Kibera Public Space Project 05 in 2013. A similar process could be followed to find artists to produce murals that would incorporate the flood-line concept as well as issues around climate change.
Artwork from Kibera Public Space Project 05. This was developed following a Kibera wide competition. A similar process could be followed to find artists to produce murals that would incorporate the flood-line concept as well as issues around climate change.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
We still don’t know exactly how people would interpret or use the flood-level information. Making sure that people understand what is represented (and why the flood event shown might not happen every year) is critical. Further prototyping and then piloting of one scheme would be needed to test assumptions.
Though we have identified potential locations in Kibera we would need a much closer feasibility study and conversations with residents to understand which typologies would be most suited. We know that the artwork, benching and washing-line ideas would work in some locations but there could also be other more appropriate typologies in other places.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Understanding and modelling flood risk is complex and requires coordination across geographical and political boundaries. In the slum context the tension between housing encroachment into the riparian zone and a lack of government agency compounds the macro challenges and hinders action. The government blanket riparian clearance zone has proved unenforceable in Kibera and other settlements, creating tensions between residents and implementing agencies and resulting in significant protest. Addressing housing, without directly addressing housing (as we try and do with this idea) is perhaps a subtle and slow way of moving the discussion forward.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
Feedback from the community was gathered via an urban flooding “open-day” in Kibera on Friday 20th November. One of the exercises asked residents to discuss which information they have received in the last three months around flooding and from who. This demonstrated the significant uptick in information sharing and awareness raising in comparison to the last rains from both governmental and non-governmental bodies. Most of the information has come via TV/radio, or via government or NGO information sessions (the sessions that KDI ran in October 2015 were mentioned several times). The type of information shared was more around the general risk and potential responses, as opposed to location specific risks. This suggests that the markers would add a significant layer of grounded information to inform decision-making.
When voting on how to reduce flood-risk people were less orientated towards the webtool, partly because of accessibility, but also perhaps because it feels less tangible. This suggests that the physical markers could be a more immediate and obvious means of communication. This also made us think that in design and implementation we’d need to do significant awareness raising on the meaning and interpretation of the markers. The sessions were a reminder of how many people are forced to temporarily or permanently relocate from their structures in the rainy season and was a reminder of how many are living in the “high-risk” areas.
Voting on and discussing different flood risk reduction strategies (including physical flood markers) at the KDI organized Nairobi Design Week on November 20th.
Jamilla Harper (KDI Kenya Associate Director) and Irene Ochieng (KDI Community Associate) discusses information received by residents in the last three months on various flooding issues at the KDi organized Nairobi Design Week on November 20th.
Jamilla Harper (KDI Kenya Associate Director) discusses information received by residents in the last three months on various flooding issues at the KDi organized Nairobi Design Week on November 20th.
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
The ultimate idea here is remediating the riparian zone to provide space for both the river and community amenities. This doesn’t work until there is some level of consensus between residents and government on what is happening in the flood-zone. This idea is only a small contribution towards addressing this but raises the profile of the issue for both residents and government. As a first step in scaling the potential of the idea we have discussed developing the approach in tandem with ideas like the “Flood Risk Portal” (that work via web or phone interface) so that the extent and reach of consistent communication on flood-risk could be much wider.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
Residents are actively trying to improve household and community resilience to flooding through numerous small initiatives (housing upgrades, community drainage schemes, savings + support groups). These groups need reliable information on the risks to improve their decisions. The “Flood Line” helps start that conversation. If successful it would have potential for replication in many other informal settlements.
The government (especially at the County level) is actively trying to improve its engagement in flooding issues in the informal after the deaths of 9 people in the South B settlement following the May 12th 2015 rains. This idea represents a way of communicating robust and real information to communities without forcing people from their homes. As such the approach should be of interest to governmental players (e.g. National Environmental Management Agency) as a low-cost, less-politicized, (potentially) high-impact way of addressing one of the cities most intractable issues.