The Kibera Flood Risk Portal (Rev 03 15.12.22)
The Portal provides information to residents on the level of flood-risk in a certain area and on responses to build local resilience
This images shows a mock-up of the Portal interface and some of the types of information that might be made available via the Portal (using KDI's household information gathered pre and post rainy seasons in 2015 as a background).
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
Flooding in Kibera causes havoc twice a year. From the results of a survey of 963 households completed by KDI in June 2015, 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. Rents are cheaper along rivers and streams where flood risk is higher, attracting the poorest and most vulnerable residents. As new renters re-occupy these high-exposure households during the dry season, they are not fully aware of the level of risk. Other residents in the area may be missing simple opportunities to reduce the level of risk for their families, households and assets.
This project seeks to combine flood-risk mapping (that integrates community-level information on vulnerability with flood extents mapping) with an online interface to provide residents with information about level of risk in a certain area and appropriate responses. The interface will provide a “resilience-wayfinder” that provides linkages to resources such as local-flood preparedness centers, community-resilience initiatives (i.e. micro-finance groups) and relevant government initiatives. It will also provide connections to guidance on local structural adaptation techniques to improve the durability of local houses. Ultimately the project could support a nuanced approach to flood-risk reduction in slums by building local resilience and providing alternatives to large-scale resettlement and costly (non-future proof) engineering solution
The impacts of flooding on residents includes displacement, the destruction of assets, impacts on economic activity and social networks and environmental and health impacts. This settlement-scale project in Kibera will curb the broad social and economic impacts of flooding which are borne disproportionately by the poorest of the urban poor, and especially women, elderly and children.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
In slums, where 1.5 million of Nairobi’s residents live, the twin trajectories of rapid urbanisation and increased flooding, driven partly by climate change, collide. In Kibera, Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, numerous structures are washed away each year, destroying the limited assets of poor households, halting economic activity, contaminating water supply, displacing residents and triggering disease outbreaks.
The existing governmental policy for flood protection in Nairobi designates a blanket riparian zone within which all structures are deemed illegal. This has proved unenforceable, creating tensions between residents and implementing agencies and resulting in significant protest. This project provides a gateway for both residents and government to consider a mix of measures that increase local resilience and comprise both structural and non-structural responses that are cheaper, more climate-responsive, and less socially disruptive than large engineering projects.
Connection to the app or the web-portal would be mobile in part: 40% of residents report having an internet-enabled phone (from KDI’s 2015 household survey). For those without smartphones the “resilience-wayfinder” application could be made available at key locations (e.g. chieftaincy offices, public spaces) using a docked ipad.
Ultimately it is hoped that a flood-risk map for Kibera grounded in up to date community information would enable a more nuanced understanding of risk and responses at the governmental level, and hence generate 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 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. This idea takes the flood-risk mapping that we are already working on and develops it. We have only started thinking about and testing this idea as part of the Amplify collaboration and there is some way to go to figure out how it could work. We have worked on a related project in 2013, WATSAN Portal: Kibera, which piloted a webtool to enable residents to take better decisions about water and sewerage connections. This process taught us a lot about the challenges and opportunities of this approach.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
In many places flood-risk maps are on public record. They support formal planning decisions but also empower residents to engage, discuss, debate and critique those decisions. While flood extents are supposedly considered in planning processes in Nairobi the criteria applied can be opaque, especially in the case of the informal areas.
The Flood Risk Portal provides flood-risk information much as a conventional flood-risk map, but goes much further to provide directions and avenues to respond to flood-risk on multiple levels. It is based on robust and detailed information collected from and with residents. It can be used as a tool for action – e.g. for residents to take autonomous action to improve flood resilience – or for advocacy – e.g. to campaign for better drainage provision from the County.
KDI is in a unique position to combine the technical knowledge, community legitimacy and political engagement to turn this into something real. In response to our research on flooding in Kibera we have had requests for collaboration from various bodies involved in flood-risk management including the Dept. Public Works at the Nairobi County and the Technical University of Kenya.
Example of structure in "high-risk" area after May 12th 2015 flooding captured in KDI photo survey. Photo by Pascal Kipemboi, KDI Field Associate.
Mock-up of flood-risk map to demonstrate to residents how it could look and test with users whether the information was comprehensible/useful.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
While 40% of residents report having an internet-enabled phone (from KDI’s 2015 survey of 963 households) preferences for receiving info about flood-risk was from more traditional means: radio (68%), word of mouth (33%), TV (26%) and community leaders (11%). While cell phone remains a popular medium (36%), social media (4%) was less so.
We need to figure out which users could/would access via mobile and other internet, and then how to facilitate accurate dissemination beyond that point. This is how the idea of the public-access “resilience-wayfinder” came-in, and how we also developed the physical “Kibera Flood Line”, which could complement the Portal and reach other non-connected users.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Integrated catchment management is complex and requires coordination across geographical and political boundaries. Nairobi’s drainage system is not well understood as part of a larger system and is notoriously under capacity. In the slum context the tension between encroachment into the riparian zone and a lack of government agency compounds these macro challenges. The Portal is a first step breaking down these larger problems into manageable chunks. It demonstrates how to translate a technical understanding of flood-risk to: 1. enable residents to reduce their own risk, and 2. provide information that could support larger solutions for drainage, solid waste and flood protection.
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 organized by KDI as part of Nairobi Design Week. One of the exercises asked different user groups (residents close to river, residents away from river, “outsiders” (non-Kiberans) and community groups) to discuss/vote on different responses to flooding in Kibera. Overall people saw drainage in particular as the most immediate challenge which was reinforced at a wider group session (see video). Useful feedback was given about the Portal idea, including a request that SMS-based information could be linked in, and that people could upload information about flood events and damages. The feasibility of these ideas needs further testing.
Another development was getting feedback on the technical side of the idea. According to discussions held with modelling specialists last week in Nairobi the 1D Hydrological Modelling that we have applied is a process well understood in universities and research centres, but not widely applied in practice. This suggests that the Portal could provide a test-case for how modelling could be applied in the context of the urban informal, but which also has relevance to the wider city, especially as we have used using an open-license modelling tool.
User experience mapping demonstrated to us that while residents are the primary users, we also need to think about how this tool could be eventually adopted by government (to serve residents).
Ibrahim Maina (KDI Program Coordinator) and Jamilla Harper (KDI Kenya Associate Director) discuss the impact and causes of flooding with Kibera residents at the KDI organized Nairobi Design Week event on the 20th November.
Results of discussion on what information residents have received in the last three months around flooding at the urban flooding “open-day” in Kibera on Friday 20th November. This demonstrated the uptick in information sharing and awareness raising since the last rains, but also the need for a coordinated and consistent forum for the information.
Jamilla Harper (KDI Kenya Associate Director) and Pascal Kipemboi (KDI Field Associate) discuss what residents have received in the last three months around flooding at the urban flooding “open-day” in Kibera on Friday 20th November.
Pascal Kipemboi (KDI Field Associate) and Anna Collins (EWB-UK volunteer) lead voting exercise on different interventions to reduce flood-risk in Kibera on 20th November. Useful feedback was given about the Portal idea, including a request that SMS-based information could be linked in, and that people could upload information about flood events and damages.
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
The question of how urban rivers are treated has come to influence and define the identity of many cities. Proposing an integrated and community-engaged approach to riparian management is not new, however there are limited examples of the delivery and evaluation of such an approach in the context of urban informal settlements. A real and responsive flood-risk map for Kibera is a first practical step in enabling the urban design, infrastructural and planning potential of creating networks of public space and access along the waterways of Kibera, to support social and economic development, to provide an ecological buffer, and improve urban resilience.
KDI's vision of a network of public space and access along the waterways of Kibera.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
The Flood Risk Portal has the potential to link scales of adaptation between community and government. Mapping that shows flood-risk, but also settlement patterns, local drainage, topography and the location of municipal infrastructure enables an integrated “community responsive adaptation” (e.g. by taking solid waste collected from drainage to a central collection point, or by connecting a new ablution block to the municipal sewer). Robust flood risk mapping should provide the basis for decision-making on structural and non-structural interventions at the City scale. From the gov. perspective 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 (and alternatives) to large-scale resettlement. This integrated approach has not been delivered in Nairobi to date - developing this idea (and using open source modelling) could provide gov. agencies with real information on the feasibility and costs.