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Lake Victoria water levels exceed record mark

Friday May 22 2020


Residents of Budalang'i, Busia County, abandon their homes after they were flooded, on May 10, 2020. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The downpours in the 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.

An assessment by Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), whose results were released a week ago, shows the water volume of the world’s largest freshwater lake increased marginally compared to 13.41-metre 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.



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 Budalang’i and Bunyala sub-counties bearing the heaviest brunt after River Nzoia burst its banks.


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.