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COVER STORY: Lake Victoria floods

Heavy rains have left many areas around the lake basin, including the capital Kampala, flooded. The lake itself has risen to its highest ever level since 1964.

What living in this historic moment means

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | On May 20 there was heated debate about what should be done about thousands of people displaced or drowned and businesses and livelihoods destroyed by flooding around Lake Victoria.

Earlier, the Minister of State for Environment, Beatrice Anywar, had in April given the victims seven-days to leave or be forced out.  She claimed they were illegally occupying wetlands and protected zones on the shores.

But MPs who know these areas, such as Janepher Engunyu (Buvuma Woman) informed Anywar that the water levels have gone beyond the 200 meters lake perimeter buffer zone set by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

Find ways of helping the affected people instead of forcefully evacuating them, the MPs told the government.

Homes, businesses, and government fisheries and marine transport infrastructure have been inundated by the flood. The government is battling to save the three hydropower dams on the Nile River and jinja; the Kiira, Nalubaale, and Bujagali which produce most of the country’s electricity.

They have opened more sleuth gates to release and unprecedented 3000 cubic meters of water per second downstream. But that threatens more flooding downstream on the banks of River Nile and shores of Lakes Kyoga and Albert. Government engineers have also been battling to remove floating island debris from generators. The situation is worsened as most of the country is witnessing heavy rains and floods are erupting almost everywhere.

Ferry services between the mainland and lake islands have been suspended since docking ports got submerged and operators fear to hit stones and damage vessels as the move closure to the receding shores. The new Kampala-Entebbe Expressway is under threat.

A Shs2.8 billion government fish handling plant at Bugoto Fish Landing Site in Mayuge District has been destroyed.

Luxury hotels like the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Course, the Country Lake Resort Garuga, and the Marriot Protea in the Entebbe area and Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala are under water, as rains pound the Lake Victoria basin.

The question on most people’s minds when they see images of flooded homes and businesses on the shores of Lake Victoria is whether the beaches, landing sites, and some islands they have known all their life will resurface.

When he was asked the question by journalist, the manager of one of the top beach resorts in Uganda, the Spenah Beach in Entebbe, Christopher Ahimbisibwe, was philosophical.

“I can no longer boast of having a sand beach,” he said, according to a report in Daily Monitor.

Previously raised land at the beach, including a watchtower for monitoring swimmers was at the time reported to be submerged about seven metres into the lake.

Other areas, such as Miami Beach in Port Bell and KK Beach in the Ggaba area of Kampala have been completely submerged as the lake shore has shifted about 35 metres beyond where it used to stop previously.

Many of these businesses and government installations were located outside the 200 perimeter buffer zone recommended by the government.  Their destruction raises tough questions about the level of government planning. If the 200 meter perimeter buffer zone recommended by the government is not safe, what is safe? Suppose businesses move farther away from the expanded lake shore, what happens when the lake shore eventually recedes?

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