Kenya – 1,000 Families Displaced by Lake Turkana Floods, Warnings Issued for Turkwel Dam

At least 1,000 families have been displaced by flooding from Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya. Meanwhile the Turkwel Dam is expected to overflow, with over 300,000 people facing evacuation.

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

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.

“It is evident that people have lost jobs as fishing activities have been interrupted , some hotels have been submerged thus the fishing folk as well as residents have lost businesses. The effect has already been felt in Turkana North and Turkana Central Sub-Counties.”

Furthermore the Governor warned of the impending spill over of the Turkwel dam. He said:

“Turkwel Dam is expected to fill and spill for the first time. It has never filled up to its full supply level at 1,150 meters above the sea level, since its construction from 1986 to 1991.

“It has a capacity of 1.6 billion m3 covering an area of 6,500 hectares and Kenya’s highest dam at 150 meters. It produces 106 MW of electricity.

“The ongoing rains in Mt. Elgon and Cherangani Hills Catchments has made its water levels to go beyond the highest water level ever reached from the 1,139.24 meters to 1,145.09 meters above the sea level as at Thursday 20th August, 2020.”

Should the dam spill, the flood waters would cause severe damages to infrastructure, property and livelihoods. As many as 300,000 people could be displaced.

The governor said that officials have been warning communities downstream along the Turkwel basin, including in Lobokat, Kaputir, Katilu, Lobei/Kotaruk, Turkwel township, Kanamkemer, Kerio and Kangatotha wards.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in conjunction with the County Government held evacuation and prepositioning training for County Administrators in readiness.

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