Water levels at lakes in East Africa are rising alarmingly fast, flooding homes and farmland and displacing people. It is an unanticipated consequence of global warming – and it is being repeated around the globe
28 February 2023
ON THE shores of Lake Baringo in Kenya, a slow-motion disaster is unfolding. For the past decade, the water has been steadily rising, swallowing homes, shops, health centres, latrines, electricity supplies, farmland, tourist resorts and more. Malaria, cholera, typhoid and dysentery are increasing. Wildlife is under threat; conflict has broken out between people and animals and old grievances between neighbouring groups have resurfaced.
Since it started rising, Baringo’s surface area has more than doubled, and it isn’t alone. Right across the East African Rift valley, lake water is creeping over animal and human heads. And where East Africa leads, much of the rest of the world is following. North America’s Great Lakes have been rising too. Overall, lakes the world over have expanded to occupy an extra 46,000 square kilometres of space since 1984, roughly the area of Denmark.
When we talk about inland water bodies, dwindling ones such as the Aral Sea in central Asia, Lake Chad in central Africa and the Great Salt Lake in Utah dominate the conversation. But the global trend is actually the opposite. The cause of these increases has been debated for years, but the consensus has now settled on the real culprit: us. You have probably fretted about impending sea-level rise. Welcome to the untold story of another human-made catastrophe in the making: lake-level rise.
East African lake-level rise
The East African Rift valley stretches from Ethiopia in the north to Mozambique in the south via Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the …