Kenya – Lake Floods Displace Thousands, Damage Livelihoods

Almost 25,000 people have been displaced by flooding along the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, while 7,000 households have been severely affected by Lake Victoria backflows.

Turkwel River and Lake Turkana. Photo: Bernard DUPONT under CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the Turkana County government, quoted by local media, 24,320 people living on the shores of Lake Turkana have now been displaced by rising water in Kerio, Kangatotha, Kalokol and Lake Zone wards. Flooding has submerged homes and disrupted livelihoods.

Meanwhile Kenya Red Cross (KRC) warns that an overflow of the Turkwel Dam in West Pokot County is likely. As of 19 October, the dam level was 1,148.03 metres above sea level, which is around 92% of capacity and the highest on record, according to KRC. Around 30,000 households in Turkana County could be affected from an overflow, Kenya Red Cross added.

Lake Turkana’s water levels have been on the rise since March this year. By mid-August, around 5,000 people had been displaced.

According to a statement of 21 August by the Turkana Governor Josphat Nanokhe, “recent water in the lake has surged to unprecedented levels from 500m to 800m claiming the once dry beaches, hotels, homes, government offices and displacement of more than 1,000 households.”

The governor also warned of a potential spill over of the Turkwel dam at that time after ongoing rains in Mt. Elgon and Cherangani Hills Catchments increased levels to 1,145.09 metres above the sea level as of 20 August, which was a record at that time.

Lake Victoria, Kenya

Flooding also continues near Lake Victoria. Thomson Reuters reported in August 2020 that about 400 families from Budalangi, in Busia County, had been displaced since April 2020, when the Nzoia River that flows from Kenya’s western highlands into Lake Victoria burst its banks.

Kenya Red Cross reported in early October that over 7,000 households have been affected by Lake Victoria backflows in Budalangi Constituency in Bunyala Sub County.

GCRF-African SWIFT recently reported that several lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley have reached record levels. Exceptional rainfall has led to the high lake-levels, although other factors may also have played important roles, including deforestation, siltation, and possible seismic shifts that may have raised the floors of the lakes and rivers.

Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga, Uganda

Meanwhile in Uganda, flooding from Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga has been ongoing for months and continues to cause hardship for local communities.

In August the government in Uganda reported that rising water levels on Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga had displaced over 8,700 people in Buliisa, Nakasongola and Amolatar districts. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda visited affected areas on 23 August 2020.

In early October, Uganda Red Cross and local media reported flooding from Lake Albert had affected communities in Ntoroko and Kibaale districts and that rising water levels of Lake Kyoga had affected the local population in Kalaki, Kakure Subcounty, Kaberamaido district.

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