Thursday, 9 July 2009

Bigger Rains and Earlier Floods in Zambia

The power of the Zambezi river is extremely important to the people of Zambia. The Kariba dam on the border with Zimbabwe south of Lusaka holds back 180 cubic kilometres of water, using it to generate about 6,400 GWh of electricity each year - Zambia gets 99.4% of its electricity from this and other hydro plants. Where the Zambezi plunges over the Victoria Falls near Livingstone, tourists are drawn from across the world to get soaked in the micro climate it creates and to marvel at the power of the water.

The people who live along the river are used to its rise and fall through wet and dry seasons and have adapted to the seasonal floods that shift its course and enrich the flood plains with nutrients to grow crops. Rituals and ceremonies associated with the river are embedded in local culture and people are used to having to move away to allow the Zambezi to do its work in late March and early April.

But rainfall in recent years has become more erratic and the communities living alongside the river as it snakes through western Zambia are now feeling the effects of climate change. More than 30 people died in just small part of this region when the floods arrived early and with great force. This is just one small example of how communities and countries who make the smallest contribution to global emmissions of greenhouse gasses are quite often the first to be on the receiving end of the resulting impacts.

Coverage of the recent early floods near Mongu can be found at:

I plan to use this blog to highlight other stories like this, remotely from my desk in London or in person from the scenes, and to bring home the impact that climate change is already having on populations around the world.

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