Rivers in Africa to dry up
By Muyanga Ziba
Most rivers in Africa will dry up soon because of reduction in rains caused by global warming , Geologists Professor Maarten de Wit and Jacek Stankiewicz from Cape Town University have predicted.
The reduction in rainfall will adversely affect Malawi and other countries that rely heavily on rain water and have proposed that alternatives arrangements should be made to avert the disaster.
The scientists compared 21 of what they consider to be the best climate change models developed by research teams around the world. On average, the models forecast a 10 to 20 percent drop in rainfall in Northwestern and Southern Africa .
With a twenty percent decrease, Cape Town would have forty two percent of river water, and Botswana , where there is Kalahari Desert, would completely dry up. The geologists predict that the water in North Africa would decrease by Fifty percent.
Deputy Director of geological services in Malawi Grey Munthali said in an interview it is difficult to predict that rivers would dry up.
“Based on the models there will be dry temperatures in Malawi which will of course dry up some rivers. However , in Malawi we have floods caused by much rainfall as well as droughts in some years. That is why I cannot subscribe fully to the findings,” he said.
He said in some months there is reduction in rainfall which in others there are flush floods.
Malawi experienced floods this year in Karonga, Nkhatabay, Salima , Mangochi as well as Chikwawa and Nsanje.The floods washed away gardens and house belongings, among others.
Speaking in an interview Group Village headmen Malumbo of Mzimba said rivers have been drying up in most of his area. This report concurs with reports of drying up of springs in rural areas in Ntcheu.
In 2OO7 at a seminar in Mangochi, Sidik Mia lamented that water level in most parts of the country is going down and most boreholes are not working because of the problem.
Late Chakufwa Chihana also lamented in 1995 when he was Second Vice President of Malawi as well as Minister of Water Development that water levels were going down making boreholes not to have water.
The geologists from Cape Town University insist rivers will dry up saying Malawi and other African countries should start planning for disasters by building dams and storage facilities to cope with periods of drought so that they are fully prepared for the droughts.
Professor Maarten said scientists are trying to find a scientific solution to the problem.
“Some scientists think in all seriousness that we might fertilise the oceans to stimulate rapid plankton blooms that in turn would use up atmospheric carbon dioxide and take it out of the system,” he said.
Professor Maarten said other scientists think they might spray sulphur particles high up in the atmosphere to increase albedo and in that way cool the earth but was quick to point out that these are pipe dreams at the moment saying they might come true in the future .
“May be water from Lake Malawi can be tapped in a sustainable way to help with water shortages. If Malawi can use solar power to pump water from the lake to the farmers, that might be a way to go.,” he suggested .
The report concurs with Southern Africa Development Community(SADC) Report edited by Mike Hulme from Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia .
According to the report , Rainfall in the region is variable from year-to-year and droughts have always occurred from time-to-time.
According to Hulme , the last twenty years have seen a trend towards reduced rainfall and, during the early 1990s, two or three serious droughts occurred. He said the decade 1986-95, as well as being the warmest this century, have also been the driest.
According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa – of which up to 90 per cent is rain fed – accounts for 70 per cent of the region’s employment and 35 per cent of its gross national product (GNP).
The non governmental organization , under the chairmanship of Dr R K Pachauri, said if the report reflects the climatic change in Southern Africa , most farmers will be affected as they will get less yields thereby affecting their economic life.
While the debate of drying up of rivers is being discussed in forums in Southern Africa, the water levels in Malawi continue to go down.