Preliminary Report

Our preliminary report is available at: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/VVOS-87YQTR?OpenDocument&query=bududa report

We still have a lot of work to do. People in Bududa need to establish landslide monitoring system; Bulecheke camp needs short and long-term planning. The situation is grave due to the lack of the governmental and international support. The next landslide threat is eminent and it is a matter of time when disaster struck again. This rain season? Next? The action is required now by those who listen. Do they listen attentively? 

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African Dancing in Mbale

One night, after coming back from the field we saw the performance by Elgon Ngoma Troupe, a local goup of young dancers and drummers. Being a fan of jembe I could not stop listening to music and watching dancers. I hope I can share this with you. Go to the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQVDmifufRE

If you like what you see, send an e-mail to them: ngoma.troupe@yahoo.com

They will greatly appreciate your comments.

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Coming back from Nametsi and Butaleja: more questions than answers …

After spending two weeks on mapping floodplains and landslides, measuring river discharges we return back to New York. I always ask students in my geology class when we discuss hydrology:”What do you thinkI do first when I come back home to NY from abroad?” Nobody answered correctly so far.  The answer is simple. I come home and pour water from my faucet in the kitchen into large glass, then drink it slowly with pleasure. In my trips to Ukraine, Greece, Peru, Uganda, Rwanda, Belorussia, Thailand and many other countries I found that people do not drink tap water because of possible pollution. It is not safe anymore. Everywhere I was confronted with necessity to get bottled water to drink and brush my teeth. The value of pure water that we have here in New York is enormous. I am not sure if everybody appreciate this, but I do. Often, when you travel far you discover new precious things at home.

The question about floods in Butaleja and landslides in Nametsi is still in my mind. What do we know more now than before our trip? It is too early to make any conclusion but gathered in the field information helps proposing a hypothesis that despite usual attitude of “blaming nature” we should look into our own actions and history. Roads in Butaleja across flood plains and rice management schemes are possible agents of increased flood magnitude; absence of drainage systems, water leakages into landslide prone areas and poor terracing on 50-70 degree slopes in Bududa (where Nametsi village is) are possible agents of increased landslide risk. In both cases the water that we drink and use for crops, water that gives life to everything on the Earth is both, blessing and curse in this small central African country. Why it is so? The questions are waiting to be answered.

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Nametsi Landslide

For the past three days we were scrambling along the western flank of Mt. Elgon to map villages affected by the Nametsi landslide and the landslide itself. Nametsi is a tiny village with few hundred people, most residing now in the camp for displaced population several kilometers away. The landslide that occured on March 2 buried almost three hundred people. Some were in the health clinic and some just stayed in small trading center. Interestingly enough, but in most places I visited for the past two weeks life starts after the dusk despite the absence of electricity. People use lamps and just walk, gather in groups and enjoy conversations, sell and buy grilled corn, chupatti, bananas and other local delicacies. The tragedy in Nametsi awakened locals who constantly experience small and large landslides but never the fatal ones. The landslide in March revealed the seriousness of situation and necessity to undertake steps toward improvement. When I asked local chairman, Mr. Julius Wereka “what can I do for you?” he answered: “People should know more about landslides, education and awareness is critical now”.  I kept thinking that 45-70 degree slopes should be itself a warning factor. But in this country of muscular and sturdy people who cross mountains daily and carry heavy loads on their heads it is not strong enough argument. People here conquer the nature, they live and plant on these slopes. Who will provide the right answer? Next “Nametsi”?

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Papirus paradise

We continued our survey of floodplains within the watershed of Manafwa River. In fact, we drove yesterday to the upper reaches of this river to the area of our next geologic investigation – landslides in Nametsi village located on the slopes of the Elgon Mountain. Manafwa River also starts there and then feeds the great Nile. Of course, the whole egyptian history was on my mind; Queen Hatshepsut, Ramses, ancient priests telling story of Atlantis, pyramids and papyrus scrolls. In one of our survey areas we suddenly entered the kingdom of papyrus plants, beautiful and gracious in their movement over swampy bogs and lakes. I imagined our ancient ancestors cutting papyrus and making the first prototype of the paper we use now.  The written history abruptly became digital in our computerized age.  We replaced paper with silicon chips. What is the next? Papyrus stands in front of me were silent and mellow.

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Living with floods …

After we arrived in Mbale we spend three days working with our team from John Hopkins University scouting area of Butaleja county (pronounced as Bu-ta-le-ja), mapping roads and selecting villages for mortality and injury survey. We found that UN data are outdated and even local authorities do not have good geographic information on locations of villages and roads. Using jeeps and GPS equipment (Trimble GeoXT unit with external magnetic antenna and cigarette plug-in charger) we mapped most of roads and settlements within the most affected areas of Butaleja. See attached pictures of Tahjib navigating the car, flooded huts in one of the villages and beautiful sunset at the end of the day (now you know how late we work) 🙂

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mysterious way of earning shillings (UGX)

07/08/2010 – throughout past six days of Buteleja, Uganda as we travel through the villages we saw women, kids of age 5 and up or even yonger working in the field, carring water, carring woods, taking the cows to the field, etc.  On the other side men were spending time at the village trading center chatting with each other.  So we began to wonder, did the men of these villages have any work?  Shocking to know that majority of the men of these villages were carring passangers on the bicycle and motorcycle to earn living.  One would never be able to figure out that bicycles and motorcycles were used as a method of  trasportation to carry passanger in order to earn living.  There we few men worked in the rice field and few were business oriented as they owned rice mills.

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