Open road drainage channels in busy urban areas and towns make an ugly sight and are troublesomeness to business and neatness in those areas. The drainage system is an important part of the road because it moves storm water away from the surface of the road by diverting it into larger drainage channels and finally to a larger water body such as a lake or a natural river. A city’s drainage system forms part of its important infrastructure irrespective of the geographical location. Drainage systems in cities or towns located in flat lands find it challenging to direct water into a certain direction to avoid floods. Although cities found in hilly areas such as Kampala have advantages especially in highland areas, the low lying places are likely to suffer common floods if the water channeling system is not well designed and properly maintained. When water stagnates on roads, it seriously compromises their lifespan. That’s the more reason why most roads are designed in convex shape to allow water to drain into the sides without staying on the road surface for a long time.
The drains can either be open of covered depending on the budget cost of the road. Roads with covered drains are expensive compared to those that are open. Therefore most municipalities and local governments tend to avoid covered drains as a cost cutting measure. It should however be emphasized that covered drains are very much a necessary expense especially in urban areas. Leaving the drains uncovered in an urban area has many implications and could in the long run turn out to be more expensive. Highways and roads in rural areas are tolerable with open side drains. Not with urban areas where there is a lot of human and motor vehicle traffic. Besides covered drains allow for smooth movement of people from the main pavement to the sides and vice versa. In cases where the drains are not covered, people tend to improvise by erecting makeshift bridges and crossings to simplify movement. A case in point is the Bukoto-Kisasi Road in Kampala which was a World Bank supported road project. The road is in a highly populated area and yet its sides are open (see picture above). People cannot easily access the shops and other businesses along the streets. It would have been prudent for the designers of such a road to consider covering the drains. Possibly it may not be too late to rectify this anomaly.
KCCA needs to incrementally start covering the drainages on most of its roads especially those in densely populated places. Some of the main reasons why drains should be covered are that they are risky to both motorists and pedestrians alike. They can be a major source of accidents. It’s common for people and vehicles to fall into these open ditches. They pose even a greater challenge when they are deep. The second reason is than uncovered drains tend to be dirty and filthy with all sorts of garbage. Although they may be easier to maintain and clean, they encourage careless waste disposal which often go uncollected for days. For the closed drains, the waste is normally deposited on the surface and therefore can be easily cleaned off and disposed in a gazzetted place. Uncovered drains therefore tend to be attributed to carelessness with the public taking them for granted and disposing waste with an attitude of “the garbage will be collected and the drains will be cleaned after all”.
URSSI therefore seriously encourages all municipal governments to seriously consider closing their drains although for the major roads especially in towns. It may be costly in at the time of construction but will in the long run pay off in terms of having a neat and clean town. For instance Pakwatch Town in North Western Uganda is one of the urban areas where the road side drains were covered during the construction of Kamdini-Arua Road. This has helped the town to remain generally clean and very friendly to motorists and pedestrians. By having covered drainages, towns have more benefits to reap in terms of creating order, cleanliness and avoiding hazards that come with open drains.