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.