Jowhar Cut Off By Flood Water

Mogadishu (PP News Desk) — Flood water has cut off Jowhar from Balad (Balcad) due to torrential rains and river floods. Travel from Mogadishu to Jowhar takes 3 hours during the dry season. When it rained without causing floods, travel time ranged between 5 to six hours. That is roughly an 80% increase compared to pre-1990s travel time when the road, though unmaintained, was still less treacherous or vulnerable to being submerged in rainwater.Torrential rains and floods have turned Jowhar into an island accessible only by a boat from Balad or by an airplane from Mogadishu.

Puntland Post reporter travelled from Mogadishu three days ago to report on the impact of rains on the road. He had to buy a bus fare only to Balad. At Balad he boarded a boat bound for an area known as Isgoyska, where he had caught a bus bound for Jowhar. On average it now takes 10 hours to travel from Mogadishu to Jowhar.

A voyage to Jowhar: Boats have replaced buses as a means of transport when travelling from Balad to Jowhar.

In the past rains did not severely affect Balad-Jowhar road.  When it rained heavily, extra two hours were added to the travel time as passengers had to get off the bus or car and walk for about 3 KMs to catch the same bus or car again which managed to trudge to a spot where it picked up passengers again. 

The 2020 rains have had an unusually severe impact on travel from and to Jowhar. The city, the administrative capital of Hirshabelle, is reeling from the impact of rains and river floods. Food prices have risen by more than 50%  due to a shortage of essentials.  “Trade between Jowhar and Mogadishu has stopped because traders rely on lorries. There are not enough boats to ferry goods from Balad to Isgoyska. Even if more boats are made available to us the price of goods will have to increase due corresponding transport costs” says a businessman based in Hantiwadaag neighbourhood of Jowhar.

After disembarking from the boat, the passenger had still had to walk between Isgoyska and Qalimow through water 5 feet deep to catch another bus or car. One has got to change the means of transport three times. Boat operators are busy but few in number.

The risk of flooding increases partly because the Shabelle River passes through Jowhar and Balad, making the impact of floods on the road system more widespread.

Experts believe that Balad-Jowhar road requires a complete redesign. When the road was designed the risk of flooding had not been taken into account. With the onset of climate change in Somalia as in other parts of the world, floods and unexpected weather patterns will continue to have an impact on the Middle Shabelle.   

“Any redesign of the road should factor in the impact of climate change on the infrastructure” says a Somali civil engineer in Garowe.  “A similar flood may happen again and affect Balad-Jowhar road. The Federal Government should prioritise solutions to floods affecting the national infrastructure.”

A video clip showing a boat ferrying passengers.

© Puntland Post, 2020