Where has Vic Falls gone? 'Nearly half' has dried up
Harare - Low water levels aren't just a problem in Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba - nearly half of the mighty Victoria Falls appears to have dried up, locals say.
Spectacular photos taken recently from the air show an almost dry gorge on the Zambian side.
Tourists are being urged to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls, where they'll get better views.
Jonathan Hudson, the general manager of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge on the Zimbabwean side, told News24 that he believed water levels at the falls last dropped this low in 1992 in the middle of a devastating drought.
“I know there’s no water from Livingstone Island through to the Zambian side, which is sort of halfway across [the Falls]. At this time of the year often there’s no water on the Zambian side,” Hudson said in a phone interview at the weekend.
"For the past couple of years it’s been like that because of the weather. Often that last third of the Falls on the right-hand side dries up." Hudson said the scarcity of rain in the last season had been "shocking".
While sightseers may be disappointed by Victoria Falls’ world-famous curtain of water being cut in two, thrill seekers won’t be.
Local tour operator Wild Horizons says low water in the Zambezi “means higher thrill levels” for white-water rafters.
"As the water level drops, so the river follows the contours of the river bed more closely and the white water starts to really boil and crash through the gorge," the group said in a blog post last month on its website.
"There is still good viewing from the Zimbabwean side but we expect water levels to continue to drop in the following months," Wild Horizons said.
Poor rainfall is being partly blamed for the low water levels in Lake Kariba, more than 500km away. The drop threatens power generation.
Zimbabwean opposition politician and MP Eddie Cross raised concern in July about the levels of water in the Zambezi River, which feeds into both Victoria Falls and Kariba.
He said it is “substantially true” that poor rains are behind the low water levels at Victoria Falls but he thinks the low population of hippos in floodplains in Zambia and Namibia might also play a part.
Cross said the hippos used to clear a way through channels in floodplains so that water drains back into the river in May and June.
"I am very concerned that the hippo population in these vast floodplains is being shot out for food... I think the drainage channels from these floodplains back into the Zambezi might be becoming overgrown and blocked.
"And if that happens, then instead of the water flowing back into the Zambezi when the river flow drops, it remains in these vast swampy areas and becomes just stagnant water," he said.
"Whatever the reason is we've got a very low level of water at the Falls," he said. "[And] we’re two months away from running out of water at Kariba for power generation."