Lake Victoria water level smashes 1964 record
Miami and other beaches flooded
Covering 68,000 square kilometers, Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest and only second to Lake Superior (USA) in the world, shared by Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya in East Africa has surpassed its previous water level flooding several beaches along its shores.
According to Dr. Callist Tindimugaya, a Commissioner in the Water Ministry, the lake has been rising since October 2019 before hitting the 1,134.38 meter mark on March 2020, smashing the previous record of 1,133.27 meters recorded in May 1965. The difference is 1.11 meters of water which had flooded to nearby areas on the Tanzania side and about 1.32 meters on the Uganda side.
“We have authorized the power-generating companies to spill up to 2,400 cubic meters per second,” Tindimugaya said.
He added that the release of 2,400 cubic meters of water at Owen Falls Dam and Jinja dam is being done to prevent the lake from expanding beyond the protection zone and to keep the power dams safe. He said the lake could easily spill over into parts of Kampala city.
“There is more rain than was expected during May, and the releasing of water is going to create space for the increased inflows of water into the lake,” Tindimugaya said. People will have to be resettled because spilling more water downstream the Nile is going to increase the volume of water in Victoria Nile (between lakes Victoria and Kyoga) and Lake Albert.
According to Tindimugaya, Lake Victoria is like a basin with only one outlet which is the River Nile that is shared by 11 countries.
Lake Victoria is fed by 23 rivers which have wreaked wanton destruction with the recent rains from Kagera in Rwanda to river Nyamwamba in the Mt. Ruwenzori ranges. The river burst its banks, leading to the evacuation of Kilembe Hospital in the Kasese district.
In Entebbe, where the Entebbe International Airport is located, the lake is inching closer to the Kampala-Entebbe expressway. The rising waters have also displaced people from the landing sites, luxury hotels, and residences around Lake Victoria including Lake Victoria Serena Golf Course, Country Lake Resort Garuga, Speke Resort Munyonyo, and the Marriot Protea Hotel, including a lowly Miami Beach located at Port Bell, Kampala, all constructed within the 200-meter protection zone of Lake Victoria.
In Murchison Falls National Park at Paraa, the ferry crossing pier that connects the northern and southern sectors of the park has been submerged, making docking for the ferry impossible. The adjoining bridge is still under construction, but with no visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no pressure for authorities to find alternative options.
According to Atukwatse Abia, a professional guide with the Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA), the biggest cause of this phenomenon is “the destruction of the catchment areas and general climate change [and] the destruction of wetlands and forests mainly which would retain the water and release it slowly to the lake. These are no more, and hence, water runs direct either from precipitation or inlets to the lake without anything holding them for some time.” She added: “The continental winds are responsible for the increased rains in the region, and that’s why like in April, we (Uganda) didn’t see much rains, but the lake was filling up heavily.
Further runoff from households and industries coupled with the destruction of wetlands have led to heavy silting and eutrophication of the lake displacing the waters.
In a related ETN article dated April 18 titled “Military battles to remove floating island on the Source of the Nile,” the floating islands also known as sudds caused a nationwide power outage when they clogged the turbines at the hydroelectric power station in Jinja briefly interrupting the President’s broadcast to the nation on COVID-19. These islands – many covering the size of two football fields – dislodged which had been heavily encroached by human settlement and cultivation.
The Minister of State for Environment, Beatrice Anywar, has since issued a one-week ultimatum to all people who are illegally residing around water bodies to vacate these places or else have them forcefully evicted.
It is yet to be seen whether Anywar will implement the said evictions since President Museveni halted evictions of people on any land during the COVID-19 pandemic and also barred any courts from issuing eviction orders.