Dry Spells, Sparks Fly

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The dry cliffs of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe this week, during the area’s worst drought in a century, fuelling concerns about climate change. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

What can be done? What could we do differently? What must I do now that I was not doing before, or stop doing now that I was doing before? The photo above and the story below fit a pattern of alarm, in the way I have chosen to be alarmed in recent years. That choice fuels my commitments to find alternative ways of doing things. And sometimes sparks fly, in a good way. My appreciation to the Guardian for this information, disturbing though it is considering how important water falls have been to my thinking over the years:

Victoria Falls dries to a trickle after worst drought in a century

One of southern Africa’s biggest tourist attractions has seen an unprecedented decline this dry season, fuelling climate change fears

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A combination photo of water flowing down Victoria Falls (top) and during the current drought. Photograph: Reuters

For decades Victoria Falls, where southern Africa’s Zambezi river cascades down 100 metres into a gash in the earth, have drawn millions of holidaymakers to Zimbabwe and Zambia for their stunning views.

But the worst drought in a century has slowed the waterfalls to a trickle, fuelling fears that climate change could kill one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions.

While they typically slow down during the dry season, officials said this year had brought an unprecedented decline in water levels.

“In previous years, when it gets dry, it’s not to this extent,” Dominic Nyambe, a seller of tourist handicrafts in his 30s, said outside his shop in Livingstone, on the Zambian side. “This [is] our first experience of seeing it like this.

“It affects us because … clients … can see on the internet [that the falls are low] … We don’t have so many tourists.”

As world leaders gather in Madrid for the COP25 climate change conference to discuss ways to halt catastrophic warming caused by human-driven greenhouse gas emissions, southern Africa is already suffering some of its worst effects – with taps running dry and about 45 million people in need of food aid amid crop failures.

Zimbabwe and Zambia have suffered power cuts as they are heavily reliant on hydropower from plants at the Kariba dam, which is on the Zambezi river upstream of the waterfalls.

Stretches of this kilometre-long natural wonder are nothing but dry stone. Water flow is low in others.

Data from the Zambezi River Authority shows water flow at its lowest since 1995, and well under the long-term average. The Zambian president, Edgar Lungu, has called it “a stark reminder of what climate change is doing to our environment”.

Yet scientists are cautious about categorically blaming climate change. There is always seasonal variation in levels.

Harald Kling, a hydrologist at engineering firm Poyry and a Zambezi river expert, said climate science dealt in decades, not particular years, “so it’s sometimes difficult to say this is because of climate change because droughts have always occurred”…

Read the whole story here.

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