Experts call for action over rising lake Victoria water levels
Water levels in Lake Victoria have now officially exceeded a historic mark, having hit 13.42 meters, due to the ongoing relentless downpour in the region.
The ensuing floods across the country have so far claimed the lives of at least 200 people.
According to an assessment conducted by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) whose results were released on Thursday, the water volume in Africa’s largest fresh-water lake increased marginally compared to 13.41 meter mark recorded on May 5, 1964.
Following the surge, which threatens to continue further, LVBC has proposed regional strategies for emergency and disaster preparedness to avert more deaths and destruction.
“We now have to take urgent action as over 200,000 people have already been displaced in Kenya and Uganda,” LVBC executive secretary Ali-Said Matano said. He was speaking at the virtual meeting that was attended by transboundary water experts from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Experts assessed the situation in order to mitigate against the serious effects of flooding.
“With the ongoing rains expected to continue, the water levels may rise further, aggravating more the challenges of flooding especially on the Kenyan side which has more rivers that drain into Lake Victoria,” Dr Matano told Nation in an interview.
Kisumu’s Nyando Sub-County is the most affected by the ravages of flooding that has also seen houses being submerged, crops washed away and roads damaged by the waters which have advanced to unprecedented levels.
The county government has put the number of displaced persons at 32,000, but the number could be more, with those affected seeking refuge in rescue centres for weeks now.
Among the affected, we found Rev Caleb Obonyo of Episcopal Church from Village One in Nduru Location who has been forced to seek shelter in his church, together with 10 members of his immediate and extended family.
“The situation has become dire since all of us have to squeeze in this tiny room,” he said as he showed us the mud-walled structure.
Another tiny iron-sheet building accommodates 21 people who have been left homeless after their houses collapsed due to the effects of stagnant water.
While 75-year-old Margaret Kwach raised concerns over the deplorable conditions at the camp, she expressed joy that they all survived the flash floods that hit them in the dead of the night.
In the neighbouring Busia County, authorities have indicated that over 40,000 people have been affected with residents of Budalang’i and Bunyala sub-counties bearing the brunt of Mother Nature after River Nzoia burst its banks.
The adverse effects of Lake Victoria backflow has further displaced hundreds of residents upstream and rendered homeless people in Nyadorera and Rwambwa in Siaya County.
Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment has already sent out a notification on emergency disaster preparedness to other partner states as required by the protocol for sustainable development of the Lake Victoria Basin, he said.
LVBC has also called on development partners, private sector players and other well-wishers to support the current initiative being undertaken by the respective governments to mitigate against the serious effects on flooding.
“The immediate needs now include food, shelter, sanitation and basic medical facilities especially now with the current Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Matano.
Ugandan Water Minister Sam Cheptoris has also attributed the backflow and increased flooding to emergence of several floating islands that has led to the blockage of River Nile which is the only outflow of Lake Victoria.