Why Victoria Falls are down to a trickle?

Context

  • The flow of Victoria Falls, with a width of 1.7 km and a height of roughly 108 metres, has been reduced to a trickle due to the severe droughts in the southern African region since October 2018. The falls are fed by the Zambezi river and define the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa.

Details

  • The falls are one of southern Africa’s biggest tourist attractions, but now one of the worst droughts of the century has reduced its flow to a trickle triggering fears that climate change might destroy a major tourist attraction such as this. The news comes amid the ongoing 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that is being held in Madrid, Spain.
  • The falls are also referred to as “The Smoke that Thunders” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1855, explorer David Livingstone became the first European to witness the falls and called it, “a view for the angels”.
  • Significantly, according to the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the southern African region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with temperatures rising faster at over 2 degree Celsius as compared to global warming at 1.5 degree Celsius. “At 1.5°C, a robust signal of precipitation reduction is found over the Limpopo basin and smaller areas of the Zambezi basin in Zambia,” the report says.
  • The report also projects a precipitation decrease of about 10-20 per cent, coupled with longer dry spells over Namibia, Botswana, northern Zimbabwe and southern Zambia (Victoria falls are located in southwestern Zambia and northwestern Zimbabwe). Furthermore, the report adds, “Projected reductions in streamflow of 5–10 per cent in the Zambezi River basin have been associated with increased evaporation and transpiration rates resulting from a rise in temperature with issues for hydroelectric power across the region of southern Africa.”

Victoria Falls and Tourism

  • Being one of the biggest tourist attractions in southern Africa, tourism at Victoria Falls brings in some amount of revenue for both Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls can be accessed through both countries, however, while 75 per cent of the falls are visible from Zimbabwe, only 25 per cent of the falls are visible from Zambia. Therefore, more tourists access it through Zimbabwe.

Source: Indian Express