Southern Africa: tragedy as floods hit again

As Cahora Bassa dam increases its discharge of water to 7,500 cubic metres of water per second, the situation downstream waits for the weather to get better or worse. If it gets worse, the already drastic situation in central and southern Mozambique could turn into a calamity, like last year. Should the weather conditions improve, disaster may yet be averted, although it is reported that Cahora Bassa continues to receive 11,000 cubic metres of water per second. The Mozambique authorities have already requested Zambia and Zimbabwe to retain the maximum quantity of water possible in the Zambeze river, which runs through these countries before entering Mozambique. This is another example of the implications of policies regarding international waters, in rivers. Rivers are seen to be a national prerogative, but when they flow into another nation, downstream effects of pollution or flooding can have dramatic effects on local populations, which are unfelt upstream. The Mozambique authorities are this year better prepared, after the hundreds of thousands of displaced people caused by last year’s floods, many of whom continue to be refugees in their own country. This year, the Mozambique authorities reserve the right to forcefully remove people from their homes if these are deemed to be under threat. Last year many of the 700 victims were killed because they refused to leave their livestock, under threat of being drowned. As it happened, both the livestock and their owners were killed. Meanwhile in neighbouring Malawi, there are 200,000 people displaced due to the floods. Five people have been confirmed killed, with the number expected to rise, either directly because of the floods or due to ensuing epidemics of disease. 100,000 people from Mozambique are reported to have crossed over the frontier into Malawi, to higher ground. This area of Africa is a victim of drought one moment and floods the next. Until the international community creates the conditions for the local populations to find solutions to their problems, such as through educational and engineering programmes, the saga will tend to repeat itself, year after year.