OPINION PIECE: The true impact of floods on communities

Flash floods wreaked havoc in Johannesburg late last year. File photo: Facebook

Recently parts of South Africa experienced heavy rains and some, due to flash floods, caused havoc in their path leaving a trail of destruction in the agricultural sector, with infrastructure and buildings.

This happened during the time when the drought was overwhelming with crops dying, and animals and mankind were suffering. The fact is, water is life.

We need water to do most of our chores be it cooking, washing [clothes and ourselves], for drinking or sanitation purposes.

Floods have devastating consequences and can have long-term effects on the economy, environment, and people. Many people and animals have either been injured or worse, died as casualties of flash floods, while some have found themselves homeless.

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Water supply and electricity are disrupted and people struggle and suffer as a result. In addition to this, flooding brings a lot of diseases and infections.

The environment also suffers because of floods. Chemicals and other hazardous substances end up in the water and eventually contaminate water catchments made to harvest fresh water for future use.

The natural water cycle cannot function properly in urban areas because buildings, concrete and other sealed surfaces prevent water from soaking into the ground.

As a result, natural water flows are altered and storm water is created in the process. Storm water is rain that has collected on roofs, roads, footpaths and other sealed surfaces.

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It flows directly into waterways via the storm water drainage network. High volumes of storm water impact waterways by eroding stream banks, increasing turbidity and pollution levels in dams and rivers.

Flooding does not necessarily increase dam and river levels and capacity due to foreign objects carried into the dams and rivers during flooding. In most urbanised areas flooding is caused when the high volume of storm water exceeds the capacity of the storm water drains. This can cause flooding in areas not necessarily close to waterways.

But, there is also something good about floods, especially those that occur in floodplains and farm fields. Floodwaters carry lots of nutrients that are deposited in the plains.

Farmers love such soil, as they are perfect for cultivating several kinds of crops.

– Marcus Monyakeni