Lake Victoria’s Bid To Take Back Its Home

Flooding refers to an overflow of water that submerges usually dry land. Major floods are usually rare occurrences. For the last couple of years, knowledge on flooding has greatly increased moving away from purely hydrological and hydraulic science to integrating multiples of disciplines to account for their occurrences. In juxtaposition, Uganda is currently faced with record floods at its biggest lake, Victoria and it is so that we explore some of the dynamics propelling this occurrence.

With almost every Ugandan abiding by the presidential directives and measures geared towards fighting the spread of COVID19, Lake Victoria has snubbed to accept the rules. The Lake has been moving around even past curfew time, visiting people’s houses unannounced and constant contact with people. Yet ironically, the one directive it hasn’t refuted is that one of staying home.

Lake Victoria is the largest lake in the Africa and the second largest lake in the world.
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest lake in the world.

A lot of events have happened ever since the pandemic infiltrating our country but the flooding of Lake Victoria cannot go unnoticed. For the past three months, the water levels have been increasing exponentially as various reports and studies show that it hit 13.42-meter mark beating the previous 13.41-meter mark record that was recorded in 1964. This can be attributed to a couple of vicious reinforcing factors. 

Whilst some are blaming it on Uganda’s policy to release water as an attempt to meet electricity demands, it is important to note that the major factories and industries that use water as a major raw material closed down due to the pandemic and thus a reduction in production have meant that a lot of water is now left unexploited. This consequently affects the user rates of Hydro-Electric Power as factories and industries are the major consumers thus reducing power generation and hence water filling up at the Dams causing an inevitable back flow leading to flooding.

Owen Falls Dam, Jinja. The dam is the main water outlet of Lake Victoria.
Owen Falls Dam, Jinja. The dam is the main water outlet of Lake Victoria.

The floods can also be attributed to the current rainy seasons catalyzed by the reclamation of major wetlands around Lake Victoria reducing the retention period of water as it now flows directly to the lake.

Quoting words from the Executive Director National Environment Management Authority in a recent interview he stated that the lake is helping him do his job. Though the statement sounded rhetorical he was right and it is within his mandate. According to the National Environmental Act 2019, the Lake Shores, Riverbanks, and Wetland Regulations of 2000 require a minimum of 200 meters buffer from the edges of lakeshore something that hasn’t been observed and perpetually neglected. Many constructions, settlements, and developments that are being affected are not even in the 35-meter range from the lakeshore.

Social economically, a lot of businesses including lakeshore markets, transport networks, private properties, recreational facilities, and farmers have been greatly impacted and currently, there is no viable source to quantify the number of losses incurred. The tough times coupled with uncertainty about when the situation is going to normalize means the economic impacts are even more enormous. The floods have attracted mixed reactions but we stand with whoever is affected and devastated by the current situation.

The luxurious Serena Hotel Kigo, partly submerged in floods.
The luxurious Serena Hotel Kigo at the lake shores partly submerged in floods.

I call upon everyone during this lockdown and fight against COVID19 to reflect upon how we can harmonize with nature and also learn to respect other people’s homes for Lake Victoria won’t rest until it has its home back. With the current state of affairs in the country, most of the effort and priority is towards tackling and fighting the spread of the deadly Coronavirus therefore I urge all the affected people not to focus more on Government intervention because it might be delayed. Rather, they should try to use the remaining small resources they have to vacate and relocate the shores of Lake Victoria given the fact that according to predictions and current flow of events the situation is bound to worsen.

The Writer is currently an MSC student of Environment and Natural Resources Management at Makerere University, Kampala.