Africa’s Victoria Falls Threatened by Drought; Tourism, Power Generation at Risk

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Drought has driven the water flow at Africa’s Victoria Falls to its lowest level in almost 25 years.

Flow has dropped to 3,850 cubic feet per second, according to Bloomberg. The lowest flow on record is 3,496 cubic feet per second, recorded in October 1986, according to the Zambezi River Authority.

Victoria Falls sits on the Zambezi between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls often dry up on the Zambian side, but this year has been worse than most.

Parts of southern and western Zambia have received their lowest seasonal rainfall totals since the benchmark year of 1981, according to reliefweb. Zimbabwe also has been in the grips of a severe drought.

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Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu d photos on Twitter of dry rock walls that the falls would usually cover.

“These pictures of the Victoria Falls are a stark reminder of what climate change is doing to our environment and our livelihood,” Lungu wrote in the post. “It is with no doubt that developing countries like #Zambia are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences.”

The drought, Bloomberg reported, has severely cut the amount of electricity Zambia and Zimbabwe can generate on the Zambezi.

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Much of that electricity comes from the Kariba Dam, which sits downstream from the falls. The two countries‘ largest hydroelectric plants are at the Kariba Dam, where the lake is only 15% full.

Zimbabwe‘s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, according to Reuters, said last Thursday that water in the Kariba reservoir is so low “we are dangerously close to a level where we have to cut off power generation.”

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Victoria Falls, which the locals call Mosi-oa-Tunya, or The Smoke That Thunders, is also a major tourist draw for the two countries, as is the rainforest nourished by the falls’ mist.

“Some of the tourism products that we boast of can be a thing of the past if climate change and global warming are not quickly addressed,” Godfrey Koti, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, told Bloomberg.

Clement Mukwasi, president of the Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators, said, “Rafting activities and visits to the rain forest have declined. There isn’t much that we can do except for us as an industry to promote awareness of climate change.”

There may be some relief on the horizon. The dry season is coming to an end and rains are expected to begin soon.