Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe disappear due to drought

Wodospady Wiktorii

Victoria Falls, like the entire region, is currently being impacted by the most severe drought in decades. El Niño, which brought a lot of rainfall to Europe, is causing drought in southern Africa. Despite the duration of the rainy season, water is scarce in the Zambezi River and throughout Zambia and Zimbabwe. This generates problems with food and electricity production. Water shortage in the largest waterfalls on Earth, ranked among the seven natural wonders of the world, is shocking. What are the implications of this?

Victoria Falls – the mist that thunders

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. As tectonic fractures have formed along the flow path, water pours into them, creating spectacular cascades. Before the arrival of the colonizers, the local Kololo tribe called it Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means fog that thunders. Victoria Falls is located within Victoria Falls National Park. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989 and attract millions of tourists each year. Unfortunately, they will not currently see the spectacular natural wonder for which they came here.

Largest drought on record

The weeks-long drought has meant that a massive curtain of water no longer flows from the rock walls, but only a fine stream. The waterfalls, which usually thunder and create fountains of mist, are now quiet and much less impressive. The water flow is now at its lowest level ever. During the rainy season, more than 9,000 meters usually sweep through the waterfall.3 water per second. In 2019. recorded a drop in this value to 252m3, and this was the lowest water flow in 25 years. Due to increasingly prolonged periods of drought, the Victoria Falls are disappearing.

The rainy season is currently underway, yet it is dry and hot throughout Zambia. Temperatures here reach as high as 40°C. As a result, the Zambezi is again short of water. The famous wonder of the world does not please the eyes of tourists with its power. However, Victoria Falls is not just a tourist attraction. It’s also a way to generate electricity for the local population.

Victoria Falls
pic. depositphotos/NadaK2

Impact of drought in South Africa

Zambia and Zimbabwe are supplied with electricity by a power plant on the artificial Lake Kariba. The water level in this reservoir depends on the Zambezi River that feeds it. It usually begins to rise from mid-February, but this year the water continues to decline. This makes the drying up of Victoria Falls and the river flowing below the lake the cause of power supply problems. More than 80 percent. Zambia’s electricity production is the result of water work. The drought is expected to lead to a power deficit of 430 MW. In this case, limits may be imposed on its consumption for all customers.

Residents will be looking for alternatives, and since the most popular and cheapest source of energy in these regions is charcoal, Zambia’s forests are at risk of large-scale logging. Coal is used by private individuals, as well as small industrial plants, which significantly worsens air quality. Drought is also, and perhaps most importantly, a problem for food production. Local agriculture is based mainly on the cultivation of corn. It is largely used to make cornmeal, which is used to prepare the popular dish n’shima. This dish is a staple in the daily diet of Zambians. They are facing starvation after the drought destroyed crops over an area of 1 million hectares. Animals are also suffering from the lack of water. In Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park alone, it fell approx. 200 elephants.

State of emergency in Zambia

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has declared a state of emergency in the country due to the enormity of the damage the natural disaster has caused so far. He made sure to increase food imports and asked the world for support. His call was answered by, among others. United Nations, which is helping the Zambian government develop a drought response plan.

UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia, Beatrice Mutali, says the organization is preparing to help Zambia deal with challenges being, among others. effect of El Niño and climate change, as well as an unprecedented cholera epidemic.

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