Landslides in Kenya: The need to set up early warning systems

Jason Ogola
University of Nairobi, Faculty of Science, Chiromo Campus, Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel. : +254-2-449-233, Fax: +254-2-449-539

Landslides in Kenya have been on the increase in the recent past. This has both social and economic impacts, namely loss of life, agricultural land and crops as well as destruction of the infrastructure. The most vulnerable areas have been the following districts: Muranga, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Meru, Kisii and Mombasa Island. These are areas with annual rainfall of over 1200 mm and steep slopes. Landslides are triggered by rapid saturation of the soil which in turn reduces cohesion, surface tension and friction. The recent El Niño rains (October 1997 to February 1998) have exacerbated the landslide hazards, thus calling for an urgent need to set up early warning systems in Kenya.

The paper discusses these phenomena and recommends systematic study and setting up of a monitoring system in the landslide prone areas in order to send early warnings of the impending disaster. Modern techniques such as the analysis of satellite imagery could be useful tools for investigation and monitoring of landslide hazards.