Climate Variability a Threat to River Nile

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Experts blame the decrease in Lake Victoria water levels on deforestation, encroachment of water towers and climate change among others

Caleb Kemboi
April 18, 2017

Kenya is among the three countries together with Uganda and Tanzania covered by Lake Victoria basin.

It’s estimated that close to 30 million people depend on the lake both directly and indirectly. Its fish are an important source of food, and the lure of the lake, the evasive source of the Nile, draws tourists to its shores.

In the recent years, Lake Victoria, the second largest tropical fresh water lake in the world with a surface area of approximately 68,800 km2 has been losing water at an alarming rate, putting at risk millions of people who depend on it and the existence of River Nile, the longest river in the world.

Lake Victoria is generally known as the source of the River Nile which Egypt depends on for agricultural activities.

According to experts, decrease in Lake Victoria water levels is as a result of deforestation, encroachment of water towers and climate change.

The Lake receives its water primarily from direct rainfall and thousands of small streams. This explains why climate change has a direct impact to its water levels.

“We used to experience a lot of rainfall throughout the year in this region but today we almost get below average,” says Leonard Omolo, a local in Homabay County, one of the Lake Victoria shores in Kenya.

“The climate has really changed a lot. We no longer have the long rains we used to have,” he adds.

Deforestation has been identified one of the causes of climate change.

“With the increasing population and increasing demand for land use, people are left with no option but clearing forests for agriculture and resettlement,” explains an environmentalist in Kisumu County, Clement Omondi.

“When forests are cut down, not only does carbon absorption cease, but also the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere as CO2 if the wood is burned or even if it is left to rot after the deforestation process,” he adds.

Deforestation reduces the natural recycling of moisture from soils, through vegetation, and into the atmosphere, from where it returns as rainfall.

There has been several initiatives by the Kenyan government to mitigate climate change by encouraging locals to plant more trees.

In Kenya’s vision 2030 blueprint, the country targeting to have at least 10 percent of its land covered by forests.

Currently, about seven per cent of Kenya’s total land area is covered by forests.

“We are encouraging our people to plant trees in at least 10 percent of their land which will go a long way towards ensuring we attains our target,” says Mary Njogu, a county executive in charge of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in Uasin Gishu.

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