The water broke. Instead of bringing with it life, it has brought destruction. That is one way of looking at it, especially if you are on the side of people who abuse waterfronts. If you are on the side of common sense, it is time Lake Victoria claimed territory that belongs to it. Matters of territorial integrity are not just for nation-states. They run deep and onto the shores.
Lake Victoria has risen to a record high. At the end of April, it touched 13.42 metres, surpassing the 13.41 metres reached on May 5, 1964. It is not just coronavirus making history.
The expanding waters are swallowing properties large and small, exquisite and humble. Communities are being displaced. Lake Victoria is on the march.
When nature, aided by our greed, majestically and deliberately gets on with its business, it can be quite something to watch and reflect upon. Of course, sometimes you may tame it. Most times not. If it is not water submerging land, it is earthquakes and tornadoes and bush fires causing havoc.
Soon we may have an asteroid slamming into Earth. Oh, the other day National Geographic was telling us that a fourth super volcanic eruption in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States could cause prolonged winter around the world with crops failing and people starving to death — or some such apocalyptic thing.
But let’s focus on water. More than 70 per cent of our planet is made up of water.
This fact prompted the writer Bill Bryson to quip that the name Earth for our planet is a misnomer. It should be called Water. And your body? Some 60 per cent of it is water.
To relax the weight on the Victoria and to ensure the hydropower stations in Jinja work okay, the electricity generators have been releasing ever-increasing volumes of water into the Nile.
As would be expected, the massive wetland system surrounding the finger-like Lake Kyoga have sunk. Plus more.
Someone I know growing crops on the edge of the Kyoga swamps in Kayunga has paid dearly. Acres of ready-to-harvest tomato crop were submerged. At 100 per cent, the loss was neat and teary.
Back in Kampala, anyone with any sense has bemoaned the abuse of the swamps and the entire natural system that feeds Lake Victoria from the city and surrounding areas.
Floods from the usual rain and occasional cholera outbreaks never taught anyone lessons. Apart from building fwaa, sand-mining is now one of the busy businesses in the city swamps. Before we knew it, Ggaba Road had been cut off between Kansanga and Bunga-Ssoya.
The warnings have been there. But corruption and inexplicable government negligence have overseen the abuse.
I am still not sure why Kampala cannot be run like a city. Politics does not seem to explain it.
Why has President Museveni’s government neglected Kampala for nearly four decades? How is this possible?
The results are clear, no matter. A rising Victoria is teaching us the lesson we chose to ignore. If the government ever gets interested, this is the time to ensure the territory claimed by the lake is never touched again by human activity except in the service of conservation.
The abuse of the Victoria shores is annoying in the extreme. How can anyone be allowed to build anything that kills the view of the lake from the road between the Old Airport area to Protea Entebbe? We have a right as the public to enjoy unfettered view of the lake, which is not private property.
No one should build within 200 metres, or even more, of the lake shores. The good thing is that if politics comes in the way of enforcement, we can always trust Lake Victoria to do the right thing.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.