Lake Victoria’s rise due to many factors, including climate change

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Rising levels of Africa's largest fresh water lake, Lake Victoria. /Photo by Sammy Koech

 

Climate change has not only led to drought, wildfires, and ice melting in some parts of the globe, but it has also caused unprecedented rainfall and flooding in others.

Africa’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria is one such example.

Water levels in the lake are at unprecedented heights due to more than a year of heavy rains in the East African region.

Lake Victoria rising levels. /Photo by Sammy Koech

According to Eastern Africa Consortium for Clinical Research, the current rise in the lake began on 1st October 2019 and significantly went up from 12.00 meters to 13.32 meters as of 30th April 2020. It was a 1.32 meters rise attained in only 6 months before hitting an all-time high of 13.42-meter mark by September this year.

However, heavy rain isn’t the only thing fuelling Lake Victoria’s rising levels. Environmental degradation, urbanization, and other human activity all play a part.

Dr. Raymond Omolo, Managing Director Lake Basin Development Authority. /Photo by Sammy Koech

Dr. Raymond Omollo the Director at Lake Basin Development Authority says that development is good for humanity, but it can also change the ecosystem.

“On the Ugandan side, there has been a huge hydro-project, so again that limits the amount of water that is flowing out of the lake at any given time. With this, you have the backflow so then you do not release as much water as you would ordinarily’, Dr. Omollo says.

The Kenyan government is also constructing dams to help manage the flow of water to the lake. Authorities have embarked on afforestation programs to help water catchment areas to reduce soil erosion.

Construction of US $388m Koru-Soin dam in Western Kenya. 

Human activities along the shores of the lake have also impacted the massive lake especially deforestation and agricultural activities.

Officials say that there must be a concerted effort to target these activities and make sure that they are controlled to save the lake.

“In order for us to manage this easily, firstly we must target the areas where people do agriculture because that’s where land has been opened up. Cultivation has been done and any little rain will wash away the topsoil, get it into the river, and from there, it will go settling,” Ken K’oyoo the Director of the Environment in Kisumu County explains.

People close to the lake are being advised to relocate to other areas. Officials worry the lake might continue to swell and displace more people who have lived along its shores for over a half a century now.

“When you drive along the lake, there are huge investments whether in the hospitality industry and when the water levels rise, a number of facilities in Kisumu were not usable, because they were partly submerged,” Dr. Omollo adds.

Climate change has become one of the main agendas of the United Nations Environment-UNEP with the clarion call that global citizens must unite to reduce its impact. The changing weather patterns have without a doubt resulted in many natural disasters across the world and loss of lives.

“It is a pointer to the fact that climate change is real and unless we are able to make our voices heard and do something about its impact, then very soon we would probably lose a lot of livelihoods and the beautiful lake, the resource that we have might end up being a curse rather than a blessing,” Dr. Omollo says.

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