At least 114 people have died and over 600,000 others left homeless by the current flooding in Sudan.
In the capital, Khartoum, one of the worst affected states, residents are running out of time as flood waters continue to rise and more rain is predicted.
But the main drivers of the flooding go far beyond the territory of the horn of Africa state.
Heavy rains have been experienced in Ethiopia over the past weeks contributing to the highest rise in water levels in a century, in both the White and Blue Niles. The rivers reportedly rose to 17.14 metres in Khartoum.
A transboundary problem
A similar situation has been developing further south in the Lake Victoria basin since October 2019.
According to researcher Dr. Modathir Abdalla Hassan Zaroug of the Nile Basin Initiative, there has been an unprecedented rise in water levels of Lake Victoria, the source of the River Nile, over the past months.
In a presentation shared with Sudanese journalists, Dr. Modathir explains that the average annual flow of water at Jinja, Uganda where the Nile begins, is approximately 32 billion cubic metres (1948 to 2014), a figure that is dwarfed by the current flow of 6.21 billion cubic metres per month – almost a tripling from a monthly average of 2.6 billion cubic metres.
In Kenya, homes and beach hotels have recently been submerged as water levels of Lake Victoria rose steadily. In a story by The Standard, professor of Environmental Science Raphael Kapiyo explained that what these communities are facing is a back-flow. This means the flow of water in and out of the lake is unbalanced, largely because of erratic weather patterns.
“The result is that the lake starts discharging excess water into the land around it. In doing so it is eroding shorelines, altering ecosystems, and causing flooding and economic damage,” he said.
With a big catchment area stretching across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, Lake Victoria receives water from 23 rivers flowing hundreds of kilometres. These rivers have recently more than doubled their inflows due to increased rainfall and environmental degradation.
According to the Lake Victoria Basin Outlook, a report by the UN Environment Programme, communities within the Lake Victoria basin are highly dependent on the land-based resources for their livelihood. With over 80% dependent on agriculture for their subsistence, forests are cleared for farm expansion hence much more surface runoff water finds its way into the rivers and subsequently to the lake.
The consolidated impact of human activity and climate change in the Lake Victoria basin is transboundary and is stretching even wider. According to Dr. Modathir, this is why the floods in Sudan are so bad.
The Lake Victoria Basin Commission after an assessment of water level in the lake in May 2020, proposed collaborative strategies by all east African countries in the restoration of degraded ecosystems and in reducing the possible risk of disasters. While measures have to be taken in Sudan to deal with perennial flooding, including improved physical planning and early warning systems – true success will only be realized when the rest of the countries play their part in reducing degradation and tackling climate change.