Ruaha River, formally a perennial river, which rises in the hills
of the Usangu catchment ceased to flow for the first time in living
memory during the dry season of 1993 and this drying-up has continued
every year since, with the period of non-flow increasing to several
months. As the Great Ruaha River is the life blood of the Ruaha National
Park we have witnessed an environmental disaster of monumental proportions
unfold over the last 10+ years.
In the years
immediately prior to (latter half of the 1980s) and coincident with
the continuing drying up of the Great Ruaha River various programmes
of so-called "improvement" of smallholder irrigated rice
schemes were undertaken in the Usangu catchment. In addition, two
new large scale schemes were constructed - Kapunga (1988-1992) and,
inexplicably in view of the problems already in evidence, Madibira
of water entering the catchment area has not changed to any significant
degree. Local people find it incomprehensible that, what to them was
an obvious correlation between the building of the "improved"
rice irrigation schemes and the Ruaha River ceasing to flow was not
immediately recognised and measures taken at an early stage to test
the hypothesis and address the problem. Delay in positive "on
the ground" action has served only to exacerbate the problem
and make it's resolution more difficult as huge numbers of migrant
people associated with rice farming and cattle herding have come into
and others have been campaigning for years to save this unique ecosystem
from total destruction, not only because of its international status
of enormous environmental importance and bio-diversity (rapidly degrading)
but also for it's huge economic importance to Tanzania.
been extensive research (much of it funded by the UK government) into
the reasons for the drying up of the Ruaha River, numerous papers
written and many workshops conducted into the cause(s) of this state
of affairs; but, so far, there has been little implementation of any
practical measures 'on the ground' to stop the haemorrhaging of water
and aid the restoration of the Ruaha River to it's original status
as a 'great' and perennial river. However, RBWO Rufiji-river Basin
Water Office) have commenced some practical measures on the Ndembera
River near Madibira, , and the RIPARWIN research body are also on
the brink of introducing some new practical ways of measuring water
flow and off-takes more accurately.
March 2001, whilst in London at the Rio+10 preparatory meeting the
Prime Minister of Tz., Mr. Sumaye, together with the former UK Prime
Minister Tony Blair, committed Tanzania to restoring year round flows
in the Great Ruaha River by 2010. However,five years on and the river,
and thus the entire ecosystem, is in an even more critical state.
Management of Usangu Wetlands & it's Catchment (SMUWC), now ended,
funded by DFID (formally ODA) UK.
Irrigation Productivity and Releasing Water for Intersectional Needs
(RIPARWIN) also funded by DFID and is based on the work done by SMUWC.
While SMUWC studied aspects of natural resource use in Usangu, RIPARWIN
is looking more closely at water management, specifically irrigation
research carried out by SMUWC and now by RIPARWIN has identified the
problems which led to the drying up of the Great Ruaha River, and
the most cost effective approaches in tackling them. The issue is
now to translate these ideas into ACTION so that we restore a permanent
flow to the Great Ruaha River and its environmental dependants, and
provide meaning to the effort that has gone into understanding the
1. That there
is an undisputed correlation between the so-called "improved"
rice irrigation farming and the drying up of the Great Ruaha River.
2. That the
so-called "improvement/modernisation" of indigenous traditional
smallholder small-holder schemes does not necessarily result in improved
water control, greater equity, reduced water user conflict and higher
performance. Indeed such programmes may aggravate these and have a
negative impact and may result in more problems than they have solved.
3. That by
following the research recommendations and preventing an expansion
in water abstraction from the catchment during the wet season and
the unnecessary abstraction of water during the dry season, it is
possible to restore dry season river flow with little impact on rice
The dry season
of 2003 was the most desperate, even elephant could not find water
below the dry surface of the Ruaha River bed (as they do below sand
rivers in the dry seasons) indicating the extent to which the entire
water table has fallen. Scores of hippo, forced to mass together in
muddy pools, died - this is not what tourists want to witness! The
distribution of some of the mammals has changed markedly as a result
of their search for water, leading them into conflicts with the villagers
around the Park.
On the 29th
October 2005 the 'Great' Ruaha River ceased to flow at the Jongomero
end of the Park (western end).
It began flowing
last year on the 4th December 2004, having stopped on the 2nd November
2004. This makes a record total for 2004 (for recent times) of only
31 days dry.
according to my records, (1994-2005) for the years of 2004 and 2005
the river has flowed for approximately 5-6 weeks longer than in previous
It is my
belief that the valuable work that the RBWO (Rufiji-river Basiin Water
Office) doing along the Ndembera river has contributed greatly to
this increased flow.
The work that
they are doing, is simple but effective. They are making sure that
from June - Oct all irrigation gates off that river are closed, so
that the water may continue down to the Usangu Swamp. However, this
is only one of the rivers entering the Basin.
I believe, that if this simple operation was replicated on the other
major rivers entering the swamp this would be an excellent way to
at least start combating the problem of flow during the dry season.
I would like
to congratulate the RBWO office for their work.
RECENT UPDATE FROM RIPAWIN 2005
on research for the Great Ruaha River problem)
given invaluable insight to the problem via their extensive research.
is that most actions are now with the RBWO. They, in support with
WWF, are deploying policies that engage with upstream farmers constructively
and are having an effect on downstream releases. They are also getting
good support from FAO, and we are very impressed with RBWO's efforts
given the constraints they face.
is very much in its final stages - dealing with uptake and dissemination
of key ideas. Our project is trying to get the key players in Dar
to think about revising intakes which will make it easier to release
more water downstream, as well as resolve conflicts between them.
We've already opened the debate on this, and are having a follow up
thing is to get the river basin game taken up formally as a means
of ensuring that river users realize how to share water, and save
water and release water. This game goes alongside the intake revision
ideas. There is now good interest this tool, and we are demo-ing the
game to the two key ministries at each opportunity.
Our team is
also about to deliver the Ruaha Basin Decision Aid (RUBDA) which will
support the RBWO in taking decisions about water rights, so that they
can address the balance between upstream and environmental needs.
This training is in December, and is a follow up to initial training
held in September.
We have also
submitted documents to the RBWO that specify how the river may be
kept flowing year round, including the amounts of water needed below
the intakes to ensure dry season flow. This is about 5-7 cumces.
We have also
been working quite closely with the Ministry of Agriculture so that
they revise their irrigation efficiency. We believe it
is important to realize that smallholders are generally efficient,
but are facing structural constraints that make it difficult for them
to change their activities, but lining canals are not related to these
types of problems and will not resolve water losses.
We have also
generated several other small documents that pose various questions
about water management, and allocation of water between different
It is interesting
that the concept 'that Usangu irrigation is inefficient so that improving
irrigation management can help fill the hydropower dams' (not a quote
but an interpretation) remains so resilient - this was the rationale
for the RBMSIIP project.
project and the RIPARWIN project has long argued that the major water
waste in irrigation occurs during the dry season and that these savings
are probably only enough to provide extra water during the dry season
to keep the wetland topped up and therefore to give some hope to the
notion of returning the Ruaha to year-round flow. It is not helpful
to argue that the tradeoff exists between irrigation waste and hydropower,
though one can argue that a balance exists between irrigation and
hydropower - BUT - even that has to be qualified because of the fact
that Mtera/Kidatu receive their flows from many other rivers, and
that the proportion of water depleted by irrigation is probably in
the region of 15 to 35% - and that the manageable and useable waste
part of this is an even smaller fraction. It has long been established
that the power cuts from Mtera/Kidatu are a result of excessive and
relatively inefficient water releases, due in part to a divergence
between technical and political objectives for power management.
work can be done in terms of the trade-off between irrigation and
the environment, not in terms of large quantitative water releases
but in getting this highly valuable dry season water better managed
between sectors. I believe that this can be done via better water
management. In turn, the question - "how to do this?" remains
We need a
discussion on this and RIPARWIN has been holding meetings on this
with various stakeholders. The idea that lining canals underpins improved
water efficiency is far-fetched, and yet this remains common theory
within the irrigation profession and can be found frequently mentioned
in the literature related to irrigation efficiency in East Africa.
Likewise, I keep coming across the notion that 'farmers need training
on irrigation management', when in reality they are year-round highly-experienced
experimenters and observers of irrigation. A better approach would
be help them frame their experience so that they can solve their issues
between them, and take more major priorities to service-oriented authorities.
This is the big difference between conventional 'farmer training'
and the river basin game, a problem-framing tool that the RIPARWIN
With my 21
years experience in irrigation, I would not have 'found' the RBMSIIP
link/rationale between efficiency and high-volume downstream releases
because that is not how I conceive of, or measure, irrigation efficiency.
In the final
few months of RIPARWIN, I hope that we are able to disseminate our
message of what irrigation efficiency consists of, and how best to
improve it, and that related to this, some key organisations are able
to hear us.
in reply to the above sums up the situation very well:
VIEW FROM ROBERT ROBELUS:-
WORLD BANK ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIALIST - 5 Dec 2005
I agree with
you that irrigation has no or only a very slight impact on the filling
of the Mtera reservoir (the SMUWC project demonstrated this). The
low water level in the reservoir is a combination of reduced rainfall
and overdraft for electricity production (reduced rainfall is occurring
as well in other parts of East Africa during the last few years).
When the World
Bank started the RBMSIIP project: (i) in the beginning we did not
have an idea of the project losses and impacts. It was a black box;
(ii) when the SMUWC project demonstrated that irrigation doesn't have
an impact on hydropower, but did have an impact on the environment,
the implications were quickly adopted (e.g., no construction of weirs
that enable schemes full dry season abstraction) and closure of irrigation
schemes during the dry season to be enforced by the Rufiji Basin Water
has a clear impact on the downstream environment (Usangu wetlands),
and especially the impact during the dry season on the flow of the
Great Ruaha River is significant. Closure of the irrigation systems
during the dry season and the use of groundwater for vegetable farming
and drinking water would greatly improve the situation in river and
likely restore the flow. The water right from the river during the
dry season should be zero. These actions need to be further detailed
and enforced. Also the need to rehabilitate
existing irrigation schemes and improve water management during the
wet season and increase incomes for farmers is clearly a priority.
December 20th 2005
did enjoy an extended 5 weeks of flow this year, as I look outside
the door of my tent right now the so called 'Great Ruaha River"
is no more than a very hot, dry rock bed with a few scummy pools.
The animals are drifting about aimlessly in search of water. The remaining
pools are covered in green scum, the smell of putrid water is everywhere.
The rain is late so there are still some weeks to go before we can
hope for 'a river'.
16th January 2006
indeed much of southern Tanzania has been suffering a drought the
rain is very late. However, thankfully on the evening of the 11th
Jan 2006 after wide spread, heavy rain along the Ruaha River the river
16th January 2006
Actual flow: 16th January 2006
continues, however it is a small ribbon of water approximately 4ft
wide, which is similar to the 'flow' a couple of weeks prior to the
river drying up.
has been dry this season (2005-2006) for a total of 75 days as opposed
to last years (2004-2005) all time record of being dry for only 30
The rain continues
but only in light showers here and there. It is possible that the
river will dry up again soon.
9 March 2006
early hours of the morning, there has been extensive rain to the west
of us (Jongomero end of the park). It looked as though Usangu was
getting this heavy rain too.
Now at almost
1.00pm there is a"big' river going by, the largest flood this
year so far, it has come up some 4 ft and is still rising. The water
coming by here is not just form the Jongomero but from from further
west ,I hope the Usangu area. I feel sure that some of this water
will reach Mtera.
27 March 2006
we had heavy rain, though only 34mm recorded here most of yesterday
was grey and stormy, particularly further west of us here at Jongomero.
River is now up about 4ft and is slightly higher than it was on my
last update 9th March 06. According to observers on the Lunda section
of the river, some +140km from us here, the river rose approximately
2ft after the flood I recorded to you all on the 9th.
dropped to its new 2006, low level of constant flow, after a couple
of days after the 9th and remained at this level till today.
has improved these past weeks.
31 March 2006
4ft flood on the 27th March 06 the river slowly dropped a little more
than 2 feet. Then yesterday 30th March 06, around mid-day, I noticed
a small change in the rivers flow. It began to rise a little, very
slowly, and now today 31st I believe that we finally have some water
coming in from the Ihefu swamp.
The flow is
of a different nature to a 'flash flood' and the colour of the water
is now not a muddy brown, carrying silt but a light 'tea' coloured
water that has very little silt suspended in it. This hopefully means
that the river will continue to flow at this level and maybe more...though
it is still lower than it was last year 05.
As an indication
to the depth of the river I make the following observation:-
I have just
watched 6 giraffe wade casually across the river, the general level
of the water is no deeper than up to their knees. ( in places it is
more but only for a few steps) It poses no threat for them. In contrast
to this from 1994 to about 2000, no animal, save the elephant, would
risk crossing the river in February or March (or January, depending
on the rain) The flow of water was such that it was usually difficult
for the elephants to cross easily, and
often times they would walk along the bottom with their trunks up
acting like a snorkle, the little babies would hang onto their mothers
tail and float along.
I think this
gives some visual indication that there has been a serious decline
in the wet season flow, which cannot be attributed to low rainfall
5 August, 2006
is low, and comparing the photos taken this time last year it is obvious
that the level of the river today, 5th August 2006, is similar to
how it looked around the beginning of September 2005.
to say we are approximately one month drier/lower than last year.
thing is, my comments made last year in support of the good work the
RBWO office is doing that their efforts on the Ndembera
a difference, seems to have been misconstrued by some. So I take this
opportunity in clarifying the matter:- I am not saying the Ruaha River
situation is restored or improving.
What I am
saying is that the simple and very good task of ensuring that the
irrigation gates along this river are closed from June to end October
has increased the length of time that the trickle of water that "flows"
in the Ruaha River during the dry season by about 6 weeks.
operation was started the river would simply get lower and lower by
the day and then stop. Now it gets lower and lower by the day but
once it reaches its lowest 'trickle' level it manages to maintain
this low flow for about an extra 6 weeks before drying up mid October.
Therefore, my point is, that if this simple task was replicated along
all the other rivers that flow into the Ihefu, I believe that the
trickle we see in the dry season would be substantially improved.
The wet season
flow however, is another, much more alarming story, this gets lower
and lower each year, which is not due to lack of rainfall but from
massive over use by irrigation.
22 March, 2006
received almost double its normal average in rainfall with almost
900mm so far (with still more to come). We normally get around 500mm
All springs and water catchment areas within the park ar full and
busting over, so this is a most welcome turn of events for the park.
March 22nd 2007
were taken from my 'old' camp (I have recently moved from this location
near the river). The river rose way over this level for the duration
of mid January to mid February. The river now flows at the level shown
in the photos.
As you know
Tanzania received very heavy rains this season. Which of course is
fantastic news. Mtera Dam went from its lowest level ever, to over-flowing
in a matter of a few weeks only!
of the river in April 07, when compared to the ones taken a month
earlier, (March 07, see above) show that, despite the good rainfall
the river is dropping fast. This indicates that there is a massive
off-take of water going on up stream from RNP.
23rd April 2007
23rd April 2007
We hope that
this constant drop in flow level will ease off soon.
enormously disappointed to see the depressing state of the Ruaha River.
These pictures were taken on 12th January 2008 at the
same location in Ruaha National Park as all my previous records
spanning the past 14 years.
12th January 2008
12th January 2008
you see in the river is all from local flooding of the Jongomero River
and the Itiku. There has been NO water coming in from Usangu
On the 14th of January I travelled to Usangu and Mbeya to see
that the rice paddies are all fully flooded, all rivers flowing into
the catchment area were full and flowing very well, some
of them were very high. Mbeya has apparently received its highest
rainfall on record for the past 8 years. So my question is :-WHY
IS THERE NO WATER REACHING RUAHA PARK? The answer is quite simple
the wet-season off take is far too great.
There is no need for irrigation to stop but there is a need for the
irrigation system over the whole area to be properly planned.
When will we see this action taking place? It is
not an impossible task but it will require hands on expertise and
law enforcement. If we all pull together we will succeed.
If we are not careful the Great Ruaha River will stop flowing
April 17, 2008
River is looking great, a huge improvement since my update in January
After a bad start with obvious massive off-takes in the catchment
area, rains have been exceptionally good this year, so the river in
Ruaha Park is looking wonderful.
26th March 2008
26th March 2008
26th March 2008
However, please note the stone which is just visible. I have always
used this as the level 'marker'. It is about a foot out of the water.
Ideally this marker should not be showing. In the early 1990's this
rock was always covered from January through to the end of April.
The other important and very excting news is that the Government has
been working hard to try to protect this important water source, and
as a result the Ruaha National Park has been extended to include the
Usangu Wetland, which will hopefully help to keep Ruaha 'flowing'
throughout the dry season. The extension has been approved by Parliament
however, we are still waiting for the President to sign the documents.
We are thrilled by this very positive move towards conserving a very
important National resource.
I have also included a scenic view of the river near Msembe, HQ. (see
below) I am sure you will all agree that Ruaha is looking magnificent.
Great Ruaha River near Msembe, 26th March 2008
April 22, 2008
I am delighted
to be able to tell you that the Ruaha Park has now been officially
extended to include the Usangu Game Reserve plus additional land to
the south and west. Ruaha is now the largest park in Africa, covering
an area of over 22,000sq.Km.
In recent years the Ruaha River has been drying up during the dry
season due to massive off-takes for irrigation purposes.
Usangu Wetland in July 2007
As you may know, the catchment area for the Great Ruaha River is in
the Usangu Plains, which is an extremely
important water resource for Tanzania. It feeds the hydro dams of
Mtera and Kidatu, plus being the focal point of Ruaha Park and supporting
many lives along its course to the Rufiji Delta. The Tanzanian Government
has to be congratulated for taking these difficult, but important
steps in conserving its precious water reserves.
However, this is only part of the problem, it is now more important
than ever to implement effective measures in curbing the massive over-use
of water which has seriously depleted the Ruahas flow during the wet
season and which completely destroys the river during the dry season.
I understand that there are plans in place to address this problem.
I wish the Government and the Stakeholders every success in this important
Best wishes Sue
River June 2008:
As you can
see the river has dropped dramatically in the past 2 months.
I estimate it to have dropped by about 5 feet. The depth at
the deepest points in this section of the river on the 12th
June, would be no more than 2 and a half to three feet deep. If you
look at the final picture (F), though it looks like a lovely river
right across, it is deceptive, you can see the colour
of the sand showing through, indicating the river is generally
very shallow. About 6 inches in most places.
A 1st June 2008
Ab 6th June 2008
B 12 June 2008
C 1st June 2008
D 6th June 2008
E 12th June 2008
F 12th June 2008
compare carefully the 6 pictures, 2 of them were taken on the 1st
of June (A,C), 2 on the 6th June (Ab,D) and the other 2 were
taken on the 12th of June(B,E). You can see that in 12 short
days the river has dropped by about 6 inches.
that more and more water is being channeled off daily for irrigation
Sept 19, 2008
I am happy
to say that for this time of year the flow is looking better than
usual. The river is still flowing past the gate some 40km down
stream of these photos.
Let us hope that it continues to flow for another few months
at this level. Traditionally it is about this time of year that the
river drops drastically and stops flowing by the 1st of october.
We shall see!
Kind regards Sue
on the Ruaha River is long over due, but I have been away.
many of you know the Ruaha River was in a drastic state,it was completely
dry from OCTOBER 2008 right through to mid MARCH 2009. That is five
and a half months which is the longest dry period ever recorded.
is true that generally, the rain in the immediate Ruaha park catchment
was extremely poor over much of the season. As a result many
of the small rivers such as the Jongomero,Itiku, Mdonya,etc only flooded
for very short periods, the water never reaching the Ruaha River.
the Ruaha River remained completely dry until Mid March. At which
point the rainfall in Ruaha Park catchment improved a little giving
the sand rivers enough to flood. thus the Ruaha was 'flowing' in short
sections for only a few days at a time.
the 'black water' from Usangu (Ihefu water) arrived towards the end
of March. Giving the river new life.
I would like to remind you that in the catchment proper,eg the rivers
flowing into the Usangu Basin, Mbarali, Ndembera, etc all of these
rivers and their upper catchment areas had extremely GOOD rainfall,
which was way ABOVE average.
rivers were all flooding from Mid November right through to April.
That means that four and a half months of flood water from seven
rivers have largely been used by agriculture in the Usangu basin.
in the final (5th) month of the rains did this massive amount of water
make its way down through the Giriama gap to the Ruaha Park to the
normal years the flood water from Usangu reaches Ruaha Park in February.
(assuming that the rains start in mid December), Therefore, please
note that, as the rivers have been flooding since November the water
from Usangu should have reached Ruaha Park in Mid January this
year. But it didn't reach us until the END of MARCH.
23.02.2009 Upstream from River Lodge
23.02.2009 Downstream from river Lodge
suspect we will see the same trend as last year, in that the river
will continue to drop fairly fast until it reaches a shallow trickle
will stop altogether at the beginning of October when the rice growers
start planting their seedlings.
year, Ruaha Park received very poor rainfall, as a result the springs
in the sand-rivers, and surrounding areas are mostly dry
already. Therefore, the animals will face a big problem later on in
the season. In fact, over the past few years due to the drying of
the river, game viewing has really deteriorated from the end of September
through to December. Previously, when the river was in better shape,
these dry months were Ruahas' prime game viewing months.
6th August 2009
Although the actual level does not look so dramatically different
you can see that the surrounding water in the channels in the foreground
and near the banks has dried up alot. Further down stream where the
river widens it is very obvious that the river has dried up quite
significantly in the past 4 weeks.
Great Ruaha River still flowing October 2009
We are all thrilled to tell you that not only is the river still flowing
up at Jongomero, but there is still a trickle of water reaching the
Lunda end of the park. We have not had water down to Lunda in October
for 14 years. This is an historic year! The photos below show how
the river looks at the moment.
water flowing under the bridge as of the 20th October 2009
water up at my old camp , (in the Jongomero area) some 50km up stream
from the gate.
20th october 2009:- Flowing portion on left of rock .
up of flowing portion
Although the flow is not a torrent it is certainly what we have all
been working towards. This indicates that preserving the wetland from
thousands of cattle, and shifting some of the small scale farmers
a marked difference has been achieved.
find this incredibly encouraging. Considering that Ruaha Park received
very poor rainfall this year, and that water off-take continues on
a massive scale due to irrigation in the catchment area, it proves
that it doesn’t take very much to improve the situation. Therefore,
with more effort directed to proper management of these precious water
reserves, the objective of ensuring that the flow of the GRR reaches
the Mtera Dam will be realized. This would be a remarkable achievement
also attach photos of the river in August and September 2009. The
depth and width of flow in the Lunda area was really encouraging.
I do hope that this progress continues, ensuring water for future
generations is ensuring a future for Tanzania. I would like to congratulate
Ruaha National Park for its efforts, protecting the Usangu Wetland
has not been an easy situation to administer.
Ruaha River December 2009
Ruaha river flowing in December 2009
Due to early rains the river was flowing well at the beginning of
November. The Jongomero River had several good floods which cleaned
out the old pools and assisted the GRR to flow well past Msembe HQ
and on down to Lunda. This was fantastic news for normally November
is when the GRR is completely dry.
However, since the 21st of November the rain has stopped. But the
good news is the river is still flowing past Msembe HQ, and attached
is a photo of the river as it flows under the bridge on December the
5th. You will see there are two channels flowing now. The photo I
sent in October depicted only one channel flowing under the bridge,
therefore, despite the rain stopping, the river has improved slightly
since October. To date the GRR has not stopped flowing this dry season.
Let us hope the rain returns soon.
Ruaha River February 2010
river is looking really good, as you can see the water is ‘black’
which means the water from Usangu is flowing though already. According
to Park Authorities the Usangu water started on the 24th January 2010.
This is much earlier than usual, ‘normally’ it most often
reached Ruaha the end of Feb to early March. The water in the river
is usually at its highest mid March so we will wait and see what happens
stone marker in photo 1. indicates that the river still has a way
to go before the stone is covered, which is the ‘normal’
highest flow we hope to expect each year.
photos 3 and 4 from the gate show you that the river is flowing very
well so far.
will be most interested to see what happens during this dry season
in 2010. Last year 2009 was historic in that the river through most
of Ruaha park never dried up so....what can we hope for this year?!
Ruaha River July 31st 2010
Ruaha River for 31st July 2010, is continuing to flow fairly
well, though it is dropping fast.
the pictures below, the first one depicts the river
from my old camp on the 30th July 2010 and then the same place
on the 5th August last year 2009. This is only 5 days later
than those taken this year but you can clearly see that the river
was substantially higher this time last year than it is now. If
you compare the small rock in the water in front of the
stone marker you will se that in the August 2009 photo it is barely
final photo was taken on the 31st July 2010 and depicts
the width of the flow past Msembe Bandas at HQ. It is pretty
shallow here, 30 cm deep for much of the width though the main
flow channel is more than 60cm deep.
can be seem from these photos that the river was flowing better
this time last year. In fact I have just been examining
the photos taken June 28th this year and they are not dissimilar
from those taken in August last year, so I would say the river
is approximately one month drier this year, so we will have to
see if the flow continues through out the dry season as it did
last year, at this present time it seems unlikely.
GRR my camp July 30 2010
GRR my camp July 30 2010
C GRR My camp 5th
My camp 5th August 2009
Msembe July 30th 2010
Ruaha River September 2010
general flow of the Ruaha River through the western portion of the
park (from Jongomero to the bridge (old Gate) is not
Last year it was quite a bit stronger, however,
going by the past history of flow for this time of year
it is about average to just above average.
photos below were taken from the Bridge (old gate) on the 2nd September
2010. The actual flow is now reduced to the single channel
depicted, however it is still strong and relatively deep.
Actual flow of Ruaha River at
the bridge Sept 2nd 2010
Ruaha River at the bridge Sept 2nd 2010
Ruaha river has stopped flowing.
pictures below depict the river at my old camp which was just
flowing on the first with a trickle of about 16 cm deep and 80
GRR Oct 1st 2010 old camp - actual width of flow only about 16cm
GRR Oct 1st 2010 old camp -actual width of flow
only about 16cm deep.
GRR Oct 2nd 2010 bridge - where the 2 tiny trickles join the deeper
channel are just visible.
The flow here was miniscule, coming in from two tiny channels
on either side of the deeper channel
GRR Oct 2nd 2010 bridge - showing the 2 tiny trickles flowing
into the deeper channel
river was just flowing at the bridge on the 1st October (if you
look at the last 2 photos you will see this). But by the 3rd it
has stopped at the bridge.
is still just flowing at my old camp in the Jongomero area. but
this will last only a few more days.
marabou storks are feasting on the dying fish, that are now floating
in many of the pools along the river making the water very unpalatable
for the animals and aquatic life.
you look back through my observations you will see that october
the 1st is the 'traditional' date for the drying of the GRR. This
is due to the fact that the rice growers up stream are beginning
to flood their paddies in readiness for the rice seedlings. It
has long ben my question as to why rice growers cannot defer their
starting date to Dec 1st when the rain is more imminent.
year we had a major break through in that the river flowed all
year without stopping, it was an historic occasion. I have heard
some say this is due to good rainfall. However, one needs only
to look through rainfall records to see that this is not so. I
also heard a rumor that 2009 was not the only year that the river
continued to flow, but this is 100% incorrect. I lived about 1
meter away from the GRR from 1994 till 2006 and during that time,
(and until 2009), the river died up every single year.
The reason last year was so successful in terms of flow, was because
sincere efforts were made to ensure correct usage of water in
the irrigated areas up stream of the Ruaha Park were enforced.
We know now, that through proper management we can enjoy year
round flow of the GRR through Ruaha Park, It is important to note
that this is at NO detriment to the farmers up stream.
sound management policies it is possible to keep all stakeholders
us continue to strive for this
River Water Level November 2010
Ruaha River is a disaster!
What has happened
to all that progress we made last year?
The state of the Ruaha River is shocking.
It is the driest it has been since we had a drought in
2004/2005. The river looked like this in Januaray 2005
after the rains failed in December 2004.
Why is it looking like this at the end of November? It
can only mean that the off take up stream has increased, and
that little or no management of quotas have been observed.
This is extremely disappointing. Please can we all
work together to improve this alarming state of affairs.
It is so easy to make things
work for the benefit of the whole if we all pull our weight.
GRR Nov 2010 - from my old camp 1
GRR Nov 2010 - from my old camp
GRR Nov 2010 - from my old camp
River Water Level April 2011
River Water Level April 18 2011
situation in the Ruaha Park has changed slightly over the last 4
days. To my relief some water has miraculously arrived from the
Usangu swamp (Ihefu) It is not much but it will clear out the the
very dirty water that has been stuck in the few remaining Hippo
pools, however, I do not think that this water will reach the Mtera
Dam. I don't expect this new flow will last more than a month or
if we are lucky, two.
4 View from bridge old entrance gate February 2010. The
photo above is the river in February 2010, how the river SHOULD
look at this time. The photo below is the CURRENT situation, on
April 18th 2011.
GRR from the bridge at the old entrance gate April 18th 2011
water is extremely dark brown almost black which indicates that
it has been sitting in the swamp for a very long time with no movement,
or fresh inflow of new water. Therefore, the flow into Ihefu Is
so far, very small, we will know if the flow increases if the colour
of the water becomes lighter.
unpleasant dark rank pool which is all the Hippos in this
area have to live in. Ruaha River at the main bridge Nov 2011
can see the water that remains is far from unpalatable. Ruaha
River at the main bridge Nov 2011
two photos were taken on the 13th of November, but I passed
over this same spot yesterday , 27th November, and the situation
is identical to the photos below. As you can see the situation
is not a pretty one. Considering the Great Ruaha River is
the focal point of the Park and the lifeline for all the animals
that it protects, this is a very poor state of affairs.
We do hope that plans are in place to ensure that this wet
seasons flows will not be stopped by the massive off takes
in the Usangu Basin. Further more we hope that the flows will
be sufficient to fill up the now empty Mtera Dam. Perhaps
those who are not fortunate enough to be able to afford to
run generators will be able to enjoy un-interrupted power
all waiting for rain......
and best wishes to you for 2012.
in December and January was good. In some areas it was spectacular
and in others it was about average. But all in all the Ruaha
Park and Usangu area have had more than substantial rains
so far this season. Now the middle of February, we have experienced
a dry spell which is normal.
onset of the rains in early December, the Ruaha River had
irregular bursts of flood waters, emanating from the various
sand rivers in the Park and also in Usangu. This water flowed
for several days at a time, all from local rainstorms, in
different sections along its course but it was never a constant
flow. The picture below shows the flood water from a rainstorm
on the 27th December 2011. This flow lasted a few days only
before drying up again. One can tell it is from local flooding
due to its brown colour.
River 28th Dec 2011 Ibuguziwa main bridge (old gate)
the 17th of January 2012 the Usangu water came flowing down
the river past the bridge at the old entrance gate (Ibuguziwa)
This water flowed on to Lunda. We know this is the Usangu
water due to its dark almost black colour. See photo below.
River 28th Jan 2012 - Ibuguziwa
as can be seen from the photo below, taken from the same spot
some 10 days later, the river level has not risen. Which it
should be doing if the water was flowing without interruption
or abstraction. Also the water in the photo below is slightly
brown, which means that it has mixed with recent floodwater
from rainstorms, which we know came from the area just South
West of Jongomero. So, even more reason that the water level
should be higher than it was on the 28th Jan. Finally...
River 6th Feb 2012 -Ibuguziwa
present marker stone at my old camp reveals all. If you look
at the 2 photos below you can see how low the river actually
is. It is about one third as full as it should be.
that the massive off takes in the Usangu area are greater
than ever before. It is no wonder that Mtera Dam is not filling
up very fast.
water was allow to flow naturally I feel sure that the river
and hence the dam would be an awful lot higher than what we
are witnessing at present.
River 2nd Feb 2012 Sues camp - Stone marker
River 2nd Feb 2012 Sues camp - Stone marker
river has not increased its flow since February 2012. You
can see that the grass has grown up without being hampered
flooding. Therefore the off-take from the Usangu Basin continues
to be in vast quantities. It appears to be more each wet season,
less and less to come own through Ruaha Park to the Mtera
this wet season has been excellent in the catchment area so
there has been no shortage there. The river should have covered
the stone marker completely, and should remain this way till
the end of May.
2 photos show the river as it was in April 2012, the third
photo shows how the river should look at this time of year,
photo was taken two years ago in April 2010. Note there is
only the top of the marker showing and no grass islands. The
important factor to note is that the rainfall in 2012 was
the same as 2010.
can be no doubt that off-take is increasing in volume each
year during the wet season. When will this stop? When will
there be a
limit on the off-take?
River April 2012
River April 2012
River April 2012
of the Ruaha river is falling fast. It always does at this
time of year.
photo was taken on the 15th of June at the bridge (the old
gate- Ibuguziwa) Note there are two channels flowing.
photo was taken the other day on the 30th July from the same
place. There is now only the one channel flowing on the right
photo depicts the river from my old camp. The stone marker
indicates how much the river has fallen. The peak of the wet
season flow usually or should, cover the top of the rock though
this year it only reached half way up the rock. Presumably
due to massive off take in the Usangu basin.
this year has been good in most areas, though some areas were
reported to be below average.
River 15th June 2012 Ibuguziwa - note that two channels are
29 July 2012 Ibuguziwa - only one channel flowing.
C GRR Sues camp July 7th 2012 - stone marker the height of
this marker is roughly 6 ft from the sand bar.
is not in good shape. It stopped flowing at the bridge or
old gate (Ibiguziwa) on the 20th of October. These photos
are taken from the air as I left from Msembe on the 23rd of
October. I have been away so have not been able to get photos
from the bridge as usual, but think that these photos below,
illustrate the state of the river very clearly.
see in the bottom photo (which is more or less opposite Msembe
HQ) that the river is most definitely not flowing at that
point. Also there have been reports of masses of dying fish
on the Jongomero end of the river, with flocks of Pelicans
coming in for the feast.
landscape shows clearly how desperately dry it is, the lack
of edible vegetation only intensifies the need for drinking
water for the animals, great and small. This is always the
most testing time for Ruaha, and this year is no exception.
River Msembe October 2012
River Msembe October 2012
has happened to our river?
Its 20 years since this problem started and despite the huge
sums spent on research, look where we are now !
The photo below
was taken on 22nd November 2012 at the bridge (Ibuguziwa)
There is no flow what so ever in the river.
Nov 2012 (above)
The photo below was taken from the same spot on January 23rd
2013. As you can see the flow is still very small despite
the rains starting in early December.
23rd 2013 (above)
photo was taken on the 16th of February 2013 at the same spot.
The flow is even worse than it was in January, despite there
being reasonable rainfall.
16th 2013 (above)
next photo shows the flow of the river at this spot on 6th
February LAST year Feb 2012. We were extremely concerned last
year about this LOW flow…. but my goodness it is WAY
BETTER than THIS YEAR! Please compare the photos before moving
on to the next.
6th 2012 (above)
photo below is of my marker rock at my old camp, it was taken
on the 16th February 2013. WHERE IS THE RIVER? The river bed
is completely choked by vegetation due to lack of flow. This
is a disaster.
16 2013 (above)
Compare the photo
below. This was taken at the same spot on February 2nd last
year 2012. Again as I said above, we were most concerned about
this LOW flow LAST YEAR…but THIS IS HUGE COMPARED TO
THIS YEAR 2013.
2nd 2012 (above)
River Update - July 2014
you can see from the above photo taken on the 23rd July 2014
the river is still looking quite good.
be aware though, that this is the flow we would have considered
to be NORMAL only about 8 years ago. Unfortunately, the river
is dropping fast, about 1.5cm per day. However, sadly, we
cannot attribute the more expansive flow to positive human
intervention, it is solely the result of unusually heavy rainfall
throughout this region, during March and April.
River at Ibuguziwa bridge
June 18th 2014
You can see that the river flowing almost bank to
bank this is what we would call ‘normal’
flow for June. This is due to excessive rainfall in
the catchment area. One of the higher flows on RECENT
River at Ibuguziwa bridge
June 15th 2013
This is how it looked at the same spot last year at
almost the same time.You can see that there are slightly
more green islands showing last year, but alarmingly
it does not look much different to this year. 2013
was one of the lowest flows on record.
River at Ibuguziwa bridge
July 23rd 2014
Now compare these two photos for July. They look almost
the same! How can this be? 2014 had huge rainfall
and a record flow but you wouldn’t know that
This just shows the huge off-take despite the fact
the crops have been harvested.
River at Ibuguziwa bridge
July 9th 2013
This is how the river looked at the same spot this
time last year. Remember that 2013 had lowest flows
on record. When you compare the photos on the left
to those on the right you can see clearly that :-
This year even more water has been abstracted than
last year at this time!
from the Kapunga rice scheme, the second scheme to be started
in the Usangu basin in 1987. This is but one of the 3 major
schemes that draw off water from the Ruaha River. These areas
are extraordinarily green, lush and covered with acres and
acres of water.
was really shocking to see the HUGE WASTAGE OF WATER
.........THAT IS NORMAL!
observed many channels being dammed, with sub channels currently
under construction to take off yet more water to areas further
This particular rice scheme is 13 km long, however, once we
left here,water was everywhere, acres and acres of it, like
shown in the above photos, from Kapunga to Rujewa some 45
SURELY A SMALL FRACTION OF THIS CAN BE SAVED FOR OTHER INVESTORS!!!
Such as Tourism, fishing, hydro electricity.
Why are these farmers allowed to take it ALL AND SQUANDER