Zambezi Water Levels Higher Than Normal

The Zambezi

“The water in the Zambezi is much higher than is normal for this time of year,” Guido van Langenhove told IPS. “This morning we measured three metres at Katima Mulilo, normally it should be half that.” The Zambezi is considered to be flooding when the water level breaks through the 6-metre mark.

Van Langenhove, Director of Hydrology in Namibia’s Ministry of AgricultureM warns that floodwater from heavy December downpours in upstream Angola are gradually making their way down Southern Africa’s largest river, traversing six countries.

“The Zambezi usually reaches its peak around March or April, but there are signs that flooding will occur earlier, depending on the rain in the coming months.”

Flooding of the mighty Zambezi has caused havoc in the basin in the past, notably in 2000, 2001 and 2007.

Water authorities in the region have strengthened early warning systems to head off disasters that leave people like Hamaundu destitute.

“We get readings from six stations in the Zambezi and its tributaries, that allow us to predict the water levels two weeks in advance,” says Van Langenhove about the area where four countries share a common border along the Zambezi.

“In addition we get satellite images from NASA that allow us to monitor the rainfall and flooding situation.”

He is keeping a close eye on another part of Namibia, the Cuvelai Basin in the central north, which experienced severe floods in 2008 and 2009. An area inhabited by a million people – or half the country’s population – was inundated. Heavy damage occurred to crops and livestock, while many people drowned.

“Since then we have put up 18 measuring stations in the Oshanas (floodplains) that send us automatic messages on the water levels,” explains Van Langenhove.

This year the dreaded ‘Efundja’ (flood) from Angola has yet to come. “We are monitoring the situation by satellite, but so far the rains in that part of Angola have not developed as normal.”

Yet an absence of the annual flood is by no means a blessing for the arid area, the hydrologist said. “It brings fish and people depend on it to fill up their dams for the dry season.”

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