Sunday, March 27, 2011

Heaviest ever floods in northern Namibia

Servaas van den Bosch in InterPress Service: North-central Namibia is experiencing the heaviest floods ever recorded, but unlike in previous years, the area is fully prepared. Flood levels in the Cuvelai basin in north-central Namibia are eight centimetres higher than in the 2009 flood season, setting a new record for the area where about one million people – half of Namibia’s population - live.

Every year Efundja - the Oshiwambo name for the annual floods coming from Angola - fills the shanas (floodplains) in the northern regions. The arrival of the flood is much anticipated as it brings fish, restores grazing capacity and ensures water reserves for the dry months ahead. But in recent years floods have become heavier and more frequent, generally doing more damage than good.

"It’s going to be bad," predicts Guido van Langenhove., Director of Hydrology in the Department of Water in Windhoek. "There have been good rains up in the catchment area in Angola over the past few days. This water will reach us in two weeks time. If, in the meantime it keeps raining in the Namibian part of the catchment, the inundations will get much worse."

"The situation is terrible," agricultural extension officer Miriam Fikunawa tells IPS by mobile phone from Okalongo village. "There is a lot of water and the flood is much worse than in 2009. All the roads are flooded and you cannot reach this area because it is completely under water. The clinic is unreachable and doctors and nurses are visiting patients by helicopter in order to stll give them medical attention.

"All the fields are under water and there hardly is grazing left for animals. Even people's houses are flooded and they are taking to tented camps in higher areas. There will be no harvest this year. The plants are hammered by the rains and the grain is scattered all over. This will be a very poor growing season….

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