Tanzania Authorities Battle to Save Drying Rivers
By Mariam Said and Esther Takwa
PHOTOS and satellite images show how the worst drought in recent years has pushed the Great Ruaha River and its tributaries to drop to record low this month.
Residents and eyewitnesses say the river is completely dry.
Deforestation, farming and livestock keeping has led to perturbing long dry spells in Tanzania’s Great Ruaha river basin that was once full-bodied, flowing strongly much of the time.
The River was at historically no flow this month. Last time was that severe in 2013 where areas such as Ibuguziwa were completely disconnected.
Assistant Conservation Commissioner and Commanding Officer at the Ruaha National Park Godwell Ole Meing’ataki told Daily News on Monday “we are taking actions.”
The measures, according to the commissioner, include preventing further human activities along the Mighty River that include grazing and farming.
“We are developing new guidelines and procedures for pastoralists,” he said.
“We want to remove all livestock,” he said.
The long dry spell has been felt across the basin with a section of communities in Dar es Salaam and the Coastal region struggling to get precisions liquid.
Meing’ataki said a taskforce has been formed to remove channels created by farmers as part of their low-cost irrigation scheme. These channels are from Mbarali, through Kimani and Chimala rivers.
Minister of State in the Vice President Office responsible for Union and Environment Dr. Selemani Jafo suspended all human related activities on the mighty river last week.
He wanted immediate actions from regional authorities that included planting trees to restore the water sources.
The Vice President Dr. Philip Mpango also ordered individuals who had built residential structures near the river to pull down their structures and leave the area. Daily News could not independently verify how many people will be affected.
The level of destruction on the great Ruaha River is almost similar to other major rivers, Water Minister Jumaa Aweso said in an interview.
The Minister says, technical assessment of the river has found several diversion and mineral extraction activities which generally resulted in the water shortage.
“Great Ruaha water is dried up, if concerted measures are not taken, the country will be facing the same crisis every November.
Both Dar es Salaam and the Coastal Region have experienced the effects of climate change.
The two regions are heavily dependent on waters from the Ruvu River,” he said.
Drying spells in the Ruaha River date back to 1994, according to official records. It has ever since faced a consistent challenge.
The river is vital for the sustainability of Mwalimu Nyerere Hydropower Project- the 2115 megawatts project that is expected to give relief to the country’s energy consumers.
The river flows approximately 164 kilometers connecting through Mtera, Kidatu and Mwalimu Nyerere dam.
“This is a very important river in the Ruaha National Conservation,” he said.
Mr Meing’ataki explained that the failure to allow water flow into the river mostly caused by availability of small amounts of water in the natural ponds and reservoirs as well as the heat in the river which is harmful to living organisms in the water.