'My neighbourhood was underwater': Plastic waste aggravates flooding in DRC's Kinshasa

Screenshots from a video showing flooding in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, October 22, 2019.
Screenshots from a video showing flooding in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, October 22, 2019.


Over the last few days, torrential rain has pounded Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plastic rubbish blocks much of the city’s sewerage, so each rainy season leaves one of Africa’s largest megacities all but submerged.

The wet season in Kinshasa began at the start of October, but in recent days, heavy rain has caused flooding in several neighbourhoods and in the town centre, a phenomenon that has been documented on social media.

The caption reads: "Kinshasa became Venice today, I was aboard a little rescue boat!"

The video above shows some of the damage done by the downpour on the night of October 21. It was shared on Twitter by Eloge Mwandwe, a sustainable development consultant who lives in the municipality of Ngaliema. He told the FRANCE 24 Observers team about the nightmare he faces trying to get to his office in Gombe, Kinshasa’s business district.


'It was biblical'

My neighbourhood was underwater. The flooding didn’t spare the Kintambo or Bandalungwa neighbourhoods [near where I live]. When I filmed this video, I was on the Boulevard du 30 Juin, Kinshasa’s main road, which leads to the town centre and Gombe. I filmed the streets from my car. The water came up to higher than the wheels on cars, up to my hips. It was biblical. If that’s what it was like in the posh parts of town, imagine the situation for those in the poorer areas. Some of them couldn’t even sleep at home. There is no truly effective sewerage and sanitation in Kinshasa.

The caption reads: "Every time it rains, there is a flood which kills people."


The caption reads: "Heavy rain in Kinshasa, a lot of damage. I sympathise with those who have also been victim to the flooding."

With a population of around 12 million inhabitants, Kinshasa is growing exponentially, but does not have an up-to-date land register, which is a record of who owns which land. Some of the city’s population are therefore living in zones that are liable to flooding, where construction should not be permitted.


'People are living in places where there are meant to be gutters'

Félix Kabena, president of the Kinshasa RFI club, lives in the Mont Ngaliema neighbourhood.


When there are floods, people temporarily stop working. Some had to use canoes to get around. When there is heavy rain in my district, buildings are often eroded, and houses can even be washed away.

In the centre of Kinshasa, gutters are blocked with rubbish. Bandalungwa, for example, is one of the oldest parts of town, built by Belgian colonists. It used to have good sewerage. But today, people have built houses on places where there are meant to be gutters. To tackle the flooding, the city’s land register has to be updated and a new drainage system has to be built. But that’ll be difficult, because houses will need to be demolished.

On Saturday October 19, President Félix Tshisekedi launched an operation to clean Kinshasa, which is intended to clear the gutters of plastic waste and ease the flow of waste water.

In January 2018, flooding in the city caused buildings to collapse, killing at least 45 people.

This article was written by Hermann Boko (@HermannBoko).