Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Vanishing Lakes of Africa

The first map shows Lake Chad in northern Africa in 1963. Since 1964, the lake level has continuously fallen with the surface area reducing from about 25,000 km2 to less than 2,000 km2 today, as seen in the second map in 2007.

The southern shores of Lake Chad are fringed by great stands of papyrus swamps shown in the Apollo space image. Papyrus
islands can also be seen in the same photo.

Thousands of Yeddina people made a living on the papyrus islands and in the swamps, which have now been lost. Much of the water has been diverted for use in irrigation. Deforestation, desertification and drought have destroyed almost all of their former habitat.
Lake Naivasha in eastern Africa in the ‘60’s supported extensive papyrus swamps. In the last ten years, or so, flower farms attracted 350,
000 workers to the lake (200 tons of flowers are exported every day to Europe from Kenya).

The Lake has begun to dry because of excessive water abstraction and drought. The earlier papyrus swamps are mostly gone and the lake may also be lost unless water conservation measures are enforced now.

Copyright 2010 John J. Gaudet, all rights reserved.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Uganda to Allow Drilling in the African Queen Papyrus Swamp

The film masterpiece African Queen directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and Robert Morley was shot in 1951 on a number of locations including papyrus swamps at the mouth of the Victoria Nile in Uganda. Available for years in video it was rereleased as a DVD with much hullabaloo. Back in Africa where the film was made now comes disturbing news of changes caused by a multibillion barrel oil discovery on Lake Albert.

Oil - 1.7 billion barrels has been discovered un

der and around Lake Albert. One of the Rift Valley African Great Lakes, it is shared by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.Exploratory drilling has already begun in earnest, a pipeline to Lake Albert from Mobasa on the Kenya Coast is being built, a refinery is planned and the governments concerned are standing by to rake in the profits.

It was in the papyrus swamps in this part
of Africa on the Victoria Nile just before it enters Lake Albert where the famous scene was captured of Bogart shimmying up the m
ast of the African Queen and yelling out, "Nothing but grass and papyrus as far as you can see!" Part of the northern oil block region on the Ugandan side lies inside the Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of the Lake. It is here that the Nile enters the Lake after traveling northwest from Lake Victoria. Once there it exits the Lake a bit further north, after which it is
called, the Albert Nile.

At the place where the Nile enters Lake Albert is a delta and papyrus swamps that were shown in the film. Just south of here is a point of land called Port Butiaba, which was the Uganda location of the Kungdu Village and Mission Church in the film. You remember the scene where Bogart first has dinner with Hepburn and Morley as his stomach grinds away making horrendous noises. That small lake port and surrounding village will be redeveloped by Tullow Oil, a London based oil company exploring the Lake. They intend to use the port for the transportation of heavy machines for offshore oil drilling in Lake Albert.

Sammy Tuja in Afronline, a news alert Internet agency distributed by Telpress (, also informs us that the companies involved are conducting exploratory drilling within Murchison Falls National Park, a crucial site of biodiversity, and that gas flaring will be allowed in both Blocks 1 and 2 along the northeastern end of the Lake in full view of the Park.

Terry Macalister in the Guardian, Daniel Howden in the Independent and also Pete Browne in the NY Times (Green Inc.) in February, 2010, all reported concerns that gas flaring on Lake Albert has the potential to release huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as impacting adversely on the Murchison Falls Park.

The Park is one of the world’s most precious biodiversity resources, and the potential is here to cause massive pollution in the water of the Nile and the Lake, as well as in the papyrus swamps which abound on both the river and lake.

© Copyright J. Gaudet, 2012, all rights reserved.

For more information visit:

1. Uganda Travel Guide @balukusguide Oil drilling in National Park

2. The British environmental and human rights organization, PLATFORM, at 

3. Uganda Radio Network: