Fears as Lake Victoria water levels exceed original record mark

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Fears as Lake Victoria water levels exceed original record mark. Whisper Eye Reports.

The downpours in the East African great lakes region around Lake Victoria basin have officially exceeded the historic mark as the water level is at 13.42 metres, with more than 200 deaths reported in Kenya, and many displaced in Uganda and Tanzania.

An assessment by Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), whose results were released a couple of days ago, shows the water volume of the world’s second largest freshwater lake increased marginally compared to 13.41metre mark recorded on May 5, 1964.

The surge, which threatens to continue, has thrown the East African Community’s (EAC) specialised institution into action.

It has proposed regional emergency and disaster preparedness strategies to avert more deaths and destruction.

Commission Executive Secretary Ali-Said Matano said the bursting of the shoreline can only be compared to an occurrence in the 1960s, adding, the rains could extend to July.

Dr Matano said abnormally heavy rainfall has been pounding Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania since October.

Flooding Victoria

The lake level in Kisumu is 1132.11 metres above mean sea level, Jinja in Uganda (1135.8 metres), while Mwanza, Tanzania, is at 1134.28 metres, he said.

“We have to take urgent action since more than 200,000 people have been displaced in Kenya and Uganda,” Dr Matano said at a virtual meeting attended by water experts from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania a week ago.

“With the ongoing rains expected to continue, water levels may still rise, aggravating the challenges of flooding especially on Kenyan side, which has more rivers that drain into the lake.”

Nyando Sub-County in Kisumu has been hit hard by flooding.

Houses have been submerged, crops destroyed and roads damaged.

The devolved government puts the number of displaced people at 32,000, but it could be more.

Some of the affected families have sought refuge at rescue centres for weeks.

In neighbouring Busia County, authorities say more than 40,000 people have been affected by floods, with Budalangi and Bunyala sub-counties bearing the heaviest brunt after River Nzoia burst its banks.

In Uganda Ggaba bay, Bunjakko bay, Sango bay and Masaka areas have been greatly affected.

At Bukakata landing site over 15 villages in a radius of 12KM from the original water points of the lake have been affected by the flooding Lake Victoria and residents have been reallocated to camps.

At Kasensero landing site in Kyotera, the road submerged into water and now residents use boats to access the landing site.

At Ssenyondo landing site, the road submerged into water, and houses destroyed.

Experts warning

The effects of Lake Victoria backflow have also displaced hundreds of families.

“This is the worst flooding I’ve experienced since 1964. Things have been growing from bad to worse from January. We have nowhere to call home,” 73-year-old Angelina Ajwang’, a resident of Nyadorera in Siaya County, said.

Dr Matano said Uganda has authorised power generation company Eskom to double the rate of water being released to 2,400 cubic metres per second, but added that the situation would ease soon.

“The objective of the increased water release is to prevent the lake from expanding beyond the protection zone and ensure the power dams are safe,” he said.

Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment has sent a notification on disaster preparedness to EAC partner states as required by the protocol for sustainable development of the basin.

The commission also asked development partners, private organisations and well-wishers to support the initiatives being undertaken by governments to address the effects of floods.

“The immediate needs include food, shelter, sanitation and basic medical facilities, especially as the region battles coronavirus,” Dr Matano said.

Mugerwa Timothy a Ugandan based climate activist has advised Uganda government to declare a Climate Emergency immediately.

He warned that more rain pours and definitely more floods especially in the lake Victoria basin.