Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Lake Victoria Woes

Via The San Francisco Chronicle, further news of the severe problems besetting Africa’s Lake Victoria and the potential political ramifications that may arise.  As the article notes, receding waters have raised tensions between the lake’s three neighboring countries:

“…Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake at 26,560 square miles and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world, is losing water at an alarming rate – at least six feet in the past four years. As a result, the waterway may soon join the list of dying lakes, some ecologists say.

The reasons are varied: rising temperatures, invasive species, hydroelectric dams, and about 30 million fishermen and dirt farmers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who eke out a living from the lake and use it as their primary source of water…

…a 2006 study by Berkeley’s International Rivers places much of the blame for the lake’s woes on dam projects by Uganda.  The Kiira Dam, built in 1999 alongside the 1954 Owen Falls Dam, uses Lake Victoria’s waters to generate power for Ugandan residents and export energy to neighboring nations. Both dams operate at the source of the Nile River, where it flows out of Lake Victoria.

Because the Kiira Dam has produced less energy than expected, its officials are drawing more water from the lake, according to Frank Muramuzi, the director of Uganda’s National Association of Professional Environmentalists.

“There weren’t enough comprehensive studies done, there just isn’t enough water available,” said Muramuzi.

Nevertheless, Uganda began construction on yet another hydroelectric project last year – the $860 million Bujagali Dam. Although this project is designed to re-use water flowing out through the two existing dams, International Rivers criticizes it for relying on overly optimistic projections of its impact on Lake Victoria.

The project “ignores the true damage done to Lake Victoria by the existing dams and follows with a selective and optimistic view of current lake levels and possible climate change impacts,” wrote hydrologist Daniel Kull in a 2006 study on the impact of dams in the Lake Victoria region for International Rivers.

Meanwhile, receding waters have raised tensions between the lake’s three neighboring countries. “We see (this issue) as a time bomb,” Muramuzi said. “There will be conflicts in the region, among communities and among countries if these problems are not addressed soon…”

“…If it (receding water levels) continues at this rate, with a lot of dam construction taking place, climate change, clearing forests and wetlands, within 20, 25, 30 years, you’ll have no lake,” said Muramuzi.”



This entry was posted on Friday, July 4th, 2008 at 2:13 pm and is filed under Kenya, Lake Victoria, Uganda.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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