Renewed fears as L. Turkana at risk of bursting banks

Wednesday August 11 2021
Houses destroyed by Lake Turkana water

Houses destroyed by Lake Turkana water at Aliye. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Climate change could trigger heavy flow of water leading to regular bursting of Lake Turkana’s banks, imperilling millions of people in the next 20 years, warns the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep).

The lake was for years thought to be drying due to reduction of river inflows by dams especially Ethiopia’s Gibe hydro power plants and water levels likely to drop by two-thirds, leaving it to cleave to two smaller bodies.

In a study, Unep has predicted a perilous time for 15 million people living in the area surrounding the lake due to the increase of floods.

Using a sophisticated water resources modeling and climate change scenario analysis, Denmark-based Unep-DHI Centre on Water and Environment found eight settlements around the lake could be inundated by flooding periodically.

“The flooding in 2020 is likely to be regular. New evidence of rising lake water levels is based on predicted change in rainfall patterns due to climate change,” said the UN.

According to the Unep, climate change will result in increased water flow rates to Lake Turkana from Ethiopia’s Omo river, Kenya’s Turkwel and Kerio rivers. The lake is part of Omo-Turkana basin in Kenya, north east Uganda, south east South Sudan and Ethiopia. Omo River with Turkwel and Kerio rivers from western Kenya are the lake’s water sources.


“Increased irrigation and other abstractions may help to counter balance increasing water levels in Lake Turkana due to climate change,” said the Unep-DHI Centre on Water and Environment report titled, Basin modeling and prioritisation of rehabilitation measures.

“The water level should preferably be within a narrow range of two metres from 362 to 364 metres above sea level to avoid negative impact on fish breeding and fish catch and flooding,” said Unep.