Receding Malawi lake lays bare cost of climate change


About four months ago, the fishing harbour at Kachulu on the western shores of Lake Chilwa in Malawi was crowded with fishermen and traders bargaining over the catch of the day.

At present, hundreds of fishing boats sit on cracked, dry mud as vultures fly above the shores of the once productive fishing zone 30 kilometres east of the southern African country’s old capital Zomba.

A local villager callled Julius Nkhata, says the increasingly dramatic seasonal dry-out of the lake, blamed by experts on man-made climate change has displaced local people and increased joblessness.

“Some of them have relocated to Lake Malawi while others have taken up temporary labour jobs in the rice schemes around here,” he told AFP.

Malawi’s second largest lake after Lake Malawi – Chilwa is shallow and saline and very prone to seasonal variations in water level and was last this dry during a drought in 1991. It is home to two inhabited islands and  sustains almost 200 waterbird species.

Environmental scientist professor Sosten Chiotha, who has studied the lake for 27 years, estimates it is now approximately 60% dry.

“Records show the lake has dried completely several times in the last 100 years… according to published literature, it was a cycle of 20 to 25 years,” he said. However, Chiotha warns that rhythm has changed.

“From the 1990s, the frequency of the drying has increased and this as a result of extreme weather events typical of climate change,” he said.

About one and a half million people live in the areas on the Lake Chilwa basin and it happens to be one of the most densely populated areas in southern Africa.


(FILES) This file photo taken on October 19, 2018 shows a young Malawian man standing among stationary engineless boats which lie idle at the dried inland Lake Chilwa’s Chisi Island harbour in Zomba District, eastern Malawi, on October 18, 2018. – Lake Chilwa is the second-largest lake in Malawi after Lake Malawi. It is in eastern Zomba District. Approximately 60 km long and 40 km wide, the lake is surrounded by extensive wetlands. The dying of the lake is having an adverse effect on the livelihoods for communities around the wetlands who use the lake as the source of their livelihoods. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)


-Photo credit – AFP

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