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Lake Victoria water level surpasses 1964 record  

By Gerald Tenywa

Added 12th May 2020 02:36 PM

The lake, which is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya has been rising and on Thursday hit the 13.42-metre mark. This is higher than the previous high-water mark of 13.41 metres which was recorded on May 5, 1964.

Lake Victoria water level surpasses 1964 record  

A mosque at Bugonga landing site in Entebbe which collapsed as a result of raising level of Lake Victoria

The lake, which is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya has been rising and on Thursday hit the 13.42-metre mark. This is higher than the previous high-water mark of 13.41 metres which was recorded on May 5, 1964.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Lake Victoria, which is the largest water body in Africa, has recorded its highest ever water level, according to Dr Callist Tindimugaya, a commissioner in the water ministry. 
 
The lake, which is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya has been rising and on Thursday hit the 13.42-metre mark. This is higher than the previous high-water mark of 13.41 metres which was recorded on May 5, 1964. 
 
"The lake has gone up to 13.42 metres, which is the highest level for Lake Victoria," Tindimugaya told New Vision in an interview yesterday. 
 
"We have authorised the power generating companies to spill up to 2,400 cubic metres per second," Tindimugaya said. 
 
Simon Kasyate, the head of corporate affairs Eskom, the company managing power generation, yesterday confirmed that they have a permit granted by the Directorate of Water Resources Management in the water ministry authorising them to release 2,400 cubic metres. 
 
Why spill the water? 
 
According to Tindimugaya, the increased releasing of water at the Jinja dam is being done for two reasons — 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. 
 
"I am not saying it is going to happen, but that is what could happen if the water is not released," he explained. 
 
He said there is more rain than is expected during May  and the releasing of water is going to create space for the increased inflows of water into the lake. 
 
‘‘At the same time, the increased build-up of water in the lake could cause too much pressure for the dams to withstand,'' he said. 
 
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 — River Nile — that is shared by 11 countries. 
The 23 rivers feeding Victoria have doubled their capacity leading to the rising water level since October last year. 
 
Water rise started in October 
 
The current rise in Lake Victoria water level started on October 1 last year and had risen from 12.00 metres to 13.32 metres by April 30. 
 
This was a rise of 1.32 metres attained in only six months, according to Sam Cheptoris,  the water minister. 
 
The water release through River Nile was increased from 1,000 cubic metres in October to 2,200 cubic metres of water per second in April to reduce the amount of water in Lake Victoria. 
 
However, this is leading to the flooding of lakes Kyoga and Albert downstream. 
 
"We will be monitoring to see what happens with the level of Lake Victoria. The impact takes time," Tindimugaya said, adding that the area covered by the lake has enlarged because the water is increasing. 
 
At Kitubulu, the gateway to Entebbe town, the lake has increased and it is moving closer to the Kampala-Entebbe expressway, according to Tindimugaya.  
 
He also said the rising waters have also displaced people from the landing sites, luxury hotels and residences around Lake Victoria. 
 
The increased water spill is going to be a growing challenge for the communities staying around the lake, particularly in the districts of Nakasongola, Kayunga and Alebtong. The flooding has also affected parts of Buliisa and Ntoroko around Lake Albert. 
 
Schools, roads, ferries disrupted 
 
According to Tindimugaya, the water downstream is going to increase together with the area that is flooded. 
 
"People who have settled downstream will have to move," Tindimugaya said, adding that people have settled in no-go areas. 
Such areas are also referred to as ecologically sensitive areas or a protection zone. 
 
The protection zone of a big lake such as Victoria is 200 metres and a small lake is 100 metres. The protection for a big river is 100 metres while that of a small river is 50 metres. 
 
"The people that are affected  are in the protection zone," Tindimugaya said, adding that socio-economic activities have been disrupted. 
 
For instance, operations of the ferries have been stopped and people who have settled in the protection zone will have to vacate. The schools and sanitation facilities such as toilets and settlements will not be rebuilt. 
 
"We have flood maps to see the affected people," he said. At least 174,000 people have been affected, but the numbers are increasing as flooding increases around the water bodies. Our teams are going on the ground to see the numbers affected, this week," he said. 
 
Tindimugaya said the water ministry is working with different sectors of the Government, including the education ministry to establish the number of schools and health centres that have been damaged. 
 
"We have to determine where people are going to be moved, and see those who need support," he said, adding that they are also working with the Office of the Prime Minister." 
 
However, he said they are under orders from the President to ensure that people do not return to the protection zone of the lakes and rivers as well as wetlands. 
 
"We will have to demarcate and ensure that people do not go back to ecologically sensitive areas." 
 
Civil society speaks out 
 
Onesimus Mugyenyi, the deputy executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, said the actions being taken by the Government including eviction of encroachers will not restore the lake in the short term. 
 
"The interventions by the Government are good, but they are not going to solve the problem," Mugyenyi said, adding, "the problems did not happen in a day".  Mugyenyi says the deforestation that has wiped away the forest cover on the hills leaving the slopes bare has gone on for decades. 
 
"We have wetlands that used to clean the water, but people have settled there," he said.  
 
MORE RAIN, DISASTERS  
 
Uganda is currently experiencing impacts of intensive and prolonged rainfall, which has caused a rise in water levels of major water bodies and flooding in several areas of the country. 
 
According to weather forecast report released by the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), the rain is likely to stop at the end of May in some places and extend into June in other places. This means the water level will stop rising immediately. 
 
The water levels may go down after three to four months," said Dr Callist Tindimugaya, a commissioner in the water ministry. 
 
The increase in rainfall is attributed to climate change or climate variability, but the destruction in the catchment of the water bodies has accelerated the damage caused by the water. The quick rise in the water level has also been accelerated by human activities, especially environmental degradation. 
 
This, according to Sam Cheptoris, the water minister, includes loss of forest cover, encroachment on wetlands, lakeshores and river banks which has resulted in soil erosion leading to the siltation of water bodies.

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