Rising water levels: Deal with those damaging environment

Some of the houses near Bukakata pier which were flooded as a result of the rising  water levels in Lake Victoria. PHOTO | DAVID SEKAYINGA

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Rising water levels.
  • Our view: Government should ensure that what is remaining of our wetlands is adequately protected. We also need to save forest cover as a matter of urgency. 

In 2020, after months of intense downpour, water in Lake Victoria reached levels that had not been recorded in decades.

Water levels of Africa’s largest lake started rising in October 2019, up to 12.19 metres, and reached 12.66 metres by December 2019. On March 6, 2020, a water level of 12.94 metres was registered, only similar to that of March 4, 1964. 

It then reached an all-time high of 13.45 metres on May 13, 2021. Lake Victoria basin traps water from Rwanda, DR Congo, Kenya and Tanzania. 

In the end, the rising waters caused floods, destroyed properties, displaced communities, inundated shores, and also put a lot of pressure on Uganda’s physical and transport infrastructure.

More than 200,000 people from the lakeside communities were displaced after their homes were submerged. Buildings around Lake Victoria and the River Nile, including hotels, beaches and homes, were also flooded and rendered economically unusable.

Authorities at the time blamed the rising water levels not only on the prolonged rainfall, but on human activity.
Environmental degradation, encroachment on wetlands, lakeshores and riverbanks, poor land use – all resulting in soil erosion and siltation of water bodies – were cited by Ministry of Water and Environment.

Fast forward to 2024 and water levels are going up again. The Ministry of Water this week warned all people living on riverbanks and lakeshores to vacate before impending floods expected from the current rising water levels wreak havoc.

Dr Florence Grace Odongo, the director for water resources management at the Ministry of Water, said the water level on Lake Victoria has risen to 13.4 meters, which is only short of 8cm to reach the levels of last year and yet the rainy season has just started.

Dr Odongo said from last years’ experience where the water level on Lake Victoria hit 13.48 meters, the highest in 124 years, the situation is not looking good. 

To limit the destruction of property and possible loss of lives, we appeal to both authorities and locals in the areas that might be affected to act fast.

In the short term, government should engage the lakeside communities with a view of relocating those at risk. Then there should be adequate early warning systems so that communities can better prepare for possible floods.

Long-term, we need to protect our environment more to reverse the damage that has been caused.

Government should ensure that what is remaining of our wetlands is adequately protected. We also need to save forest cover as a matter of urgency.

Finally, the environment police needs to be beefed up so that it can effectively do its jobs. Those damaging the environment need to be dealt with firmly.