Losses, despair as Lake Victoria bursts its shoreline

Tuesday February 11 2020

Business affected. Water floods Ggaba Market on

Business affected. Water floods Ggaba Market on Sunday. The water has been stagnant for three months now. PHOTo by stephen otage  

By Irene Abalo Otto

Have you ever wished to go basking in the sun or play soccer at your favourite beach only to find it submerged in water?
Lake Victoria has burst its shoreline and the impact of the ever rising water levels is bringing more trouble for beach owners and goers than before.
Over the years, environmentalists have warned that water levels on the lake would decrease due to the construction of hydropower dams on River Nile. But the variability in climate is proving otherwise.
In the last three weeks, there has been distress from farmers, business facilities, residential premises and other premises along the lakeshore.
The rise in the water level has been attributed to torrential rain that has been pounding the country for several months.
Many commercial facilities on the shoreline have been flooded and or submerged. Environmentalists say this unpredictable flooding points to climate change occasioned by global warming due to man’s relentless war against nature.
But there is also pollution by man, which also partly explains water surge forcing the suffocated lake to burst its shoreline, submerging businesses and residences in close proximity.
In some areas, the residents have been advised to relocate to safety while lakeside businesses such as hotels and beaches are grappling with constant flooding, with part of the premises abandoned or closed to clients.

Restricted. Mr Lachuman Magal, the chief
Restricted. Mr Lachuman Magal, the chief security officer of Speke Resort Munyonyo, stands at the cordoned-off area. PHOTo by Stephen otage

“It has come 35 metres into our gardens. Our marina and harbour, we had quite a bit of a shoreline but they have all been affected. For 16 years that I have worked here, I have never seen the water levels rise up to this part of the gardens,” Mr Malik Akhilesh, the assistant general manager at Speke Resort Munyonyo, said.
He added: “This is lakeside. We have four of our prime venues next to the shore. It’s one of the biggest and most popular venue for functions and events; the peace lawns and the marina restaurant. Three of our prime venues have been affected by the rising water level,” he said, pointing to a former driveway which has now been submerged.
A tractor was driving through the flooded driveway with half of the tyres submerged in water.
The rise in the water level has forced Speke Resort Munyonyo hotel management to cordon off part of their main garden at the lakeside.
“We were not doing this before, but every time we have a function, we have to put some extra lifeguards, security guards, people to clean up all the weeds which come into our lawns and just put extra people to be on standby in case some children decide to jump in. The fact that this is affecting four of our prime venues is alarming for us,” Mr Akhilesh said in an interview with Daily Monitor last week.
He said the hotel management is helpless on what to do and it remains a challenge to the business and the clients.
He added: “There is nothing we can do. This is nature, but it has affected the way people used to come to enjoy the ‘lake’ scenery with their friends and family on Saturdays and Sundays. People no longer come like before because of the flooding and reduced amount of space.”
“This has increased costs of maintenance and loss of revenue from the closed leisure premises,” Mr Akhilesh said.
He said one of the hotel’s smaller gardens hired at Shs2.5m a day has been closed.

Lido Beach
Lido Beach in Entebbe has not been spared. The sand lining along the shore is nearly all submerged with no space for beach games. The volley ball net has been moved to the paved yard.
At the shore, the lake water level continues to rise and spill to the beach premises. The flooding is aggravated by the strong winds.
The beach management declined to speak to Daily Monitor about the problem. A big part, where revellers would sit enjoying the lake breeze has also been submerged.
When Daily Monitor visited the beach last week, there were only three guests. The DJ entertained them with reggae music from legendary artistes such as Lucky Dube and Bob Marley as they sipped their drinks under an umbrella on a paved compound, about 500 metres away from the flooded section.

Disturbed.  Revellers at the flooded Mulungu
Disturbed. Revellers at the flooded Mulungu Beach on Sunday. PHOTO BY Stephen Otage

KK Beach
At KK Beach in Ggaba, about 40 metres away along the shoreline, the dining hall and pool table areas are all host to the lake.
A layer of greenish smelly water covers the kitchen area. The water weed and small marine shells litter the place. The water has spilled about 35 metres beyond the shoreline.
Swimmers have been warned not to enter the water beyond the redline the management has marked in the cordoned part of the lake. Yellow and white jerrycans have been tied on a rope to make a straight line of about 50 metres from the shore to demarcate where swimmers are advised to stop.
About 10 speed boats are docked under a huge tree standing in knee-level water.
A waiter at the beach said the pool table room, which would fetch about Shs200,000 on weekends, is equally submerged.
According to Mr David Tabalamule, the boats captain at KK Beach, for the three years he has worked at the facility, the lake had never risen to that level.
“Because of the stagnant water and the smell, people no longer come to play pool here. Our staff try to play to entice others to join them but most people now prefer taking their drinks from the compound side where we have shifted seats,” Mr Tabalamule said.
At the kitchen side, a temporary wooden walkway has been erected to aid the waitresses while getting orders for clients.


Spenah Beach
However, the Spenah Beach manager, Mr Christopher Ahimbisibwe, said they are lucky to be on a raised ground.
He said this has helped them survive the shore flooding.
“For now, the water levels have not affected my beach. It has risen but not to the extent to affect the beach. I still have the sand where people prefer playing their games without any problem,”
He asked the meteorological department to have a comprehensive weather forecast because people do not know how long the rain will last.
The Uganda National Meteorological Authority told the media last week that the rain are off-season but would continue in areas along the lake shores.

The Ministry of Water and Environment last month also warned encroachers living in wetlands adjacent to Lake Victoria to vacate.
In an interview with Daily Monitor, Dr Callist Tindimugaya, the ministry’s water resources specialist in-charge of Lake Victoria management, said the lake is refilling its parts where it had receded from.
“When it rains, all the rain water from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo comes into Lake Victoria and it does not come in one day. It travels through Kabale, Kagera, Ibanda, Ntungamo, Buhweju, which does not take one day,” he said, warning that encroachers should expect the water to invade them because it is reclaiming the place where it used to be.
“The wetlands which used to control the rate of water flow into the lake have been degraded and now the water is annoyed. It wants to reclaim its place and these are low lying lands compared to Lake Albert which has a steep gradient,” he said.
Last week, Patrick Hadera, a concerned resident of Kirombe A zone in Nakawa Division, invited the Daily Monitor to see the pattern of streams in the area. Instead of flowing towards the lake, the streams are flowing back on land.
When Daily Monitor visited the area, houses close to the wetland had been submerged in water while others had water seeping from underground despite the one-week dry spell.
Asked whether this is a normal trend, Mr Haruna Zziwa, the Local Council chairperson, said they were told that whenever the sluice gates at the Owen Falls dam on River Nile are closed, there is a backflow.
“The water comes on the land in the morning when they close the gates in Jinja and at about 3pm when the gates are opened, you see the water starting to go back into the lake. We are not very much affected in our area here but the people in Panda Pier are the most hit since they are in the low land,” he said.

Losses. Business people have abandoned the
Losses. Business people have abandoned the market area at Ggaba, commonly known for deep fried fish. photo by stephen otage

Wetland coverage
Resources. Wetlands are among the most important natural resources in Uganda and occur all over the country covering 11 per cent of its land area. These wetlands can be found around some of the major lakes and rivers such as the Lake Wamala wetland system and River Katonga around the Lake Victoria Basin, the Namatala-Doho wetland around Lake Kyoga, the Wetlands of River Semliki around Lake Albert, Enyau Wetland around the Albert Nile section of River Nile and the Achwa wetland catchment around Achwa River among others.
Importance. They are important for protecting our water resources and sustaining agricultural productivity. During the dry seasons, they are the only places where the local communities are able to access pasture for their animals and their fringes support the production of short term crops like vegetables and potatoes for household consumption.

Additional reporting by Stephen Otage