This picture was part of the BBC websites theme of the week this week 'Defeat'. It was taken by Jasper Dalgliesh: "This lion had been fighting and had lost judging from his recent scar. He was in the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania". The rest of the gallery can be found here
Reported in 'The Citizen - Sunday 27th March 2011'
Located along the great Ruaha River between the borders of Iringa and Dodoma regions of Tanzania, Mtera hydro power plant is the largest dam in the country. Its down-stream dam also supplies other hydro plants, Kidatu and Kihansi, and its reservoir is the largest man-made lake in Tanzania. Since its construction was completed in 1988, the giant power plant has been producing 80MW electricity that feeds 14.3% of the nation’s power grid system, and for long has been among the back-bone of the nation’s electricity need. The plant is run by Tanzania National Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), the country’s main power utility firm. However, the year 2011 doesn’t look good in the calendar of Tanesco’s power generation endeavours, as the water flow of Ruaha River, which Mtera hydro power plant depends on, remains insufficient. The flow is very low compared to other years, and with the situation not expected to improve any time soon, there are fears that largest dam in the country could be closed.
According to Julius Chomolla, a principal operations engineer at Tanesco, Mtera dam’s full water supply level is 698.5m, and the minimum is 690m. But as last week, the level was 690.94m, which means the plant had only 0.94 cubic meters left before it reaches the minimum level. He says the two hydro electric plants available at Mtera dam consume a total of 47,000 cubic meters of water per second each. “2011 is going to be the most catastrophic year comparing to others, as we are in March, and the water isn’t still coming in,” says Engineer Chomolla. But the clock is ticking, and we are now at the end of March, heading to April. These are the two months when the experts in the hydro power generation expect to get adequate rain. But on the contrary, so far there hasn’t been any adequate rain in March and the metrological people have already cautioned Tanesco, saying very little rain is expected even in April. “From the trend we have registered between 2005 and 2010, March is usually the pick rain season, and a time we get the maximum average inflow to the dams,” the engineer explains. “But this year, things aren’t good and in 2012 the average rain might even go further down below the minimum supply level.” 2006 was a dry season in Tanzania. That was also the only time when water supply level in the dam had reached 688.78m, and the plant was forced to close down its machines. The same situation seems likely this year if the weather trend continues the same until April. Since rain is not expected in May, June and July, the engineer fears the same hard times of 2006 could be back. Following the continuous power interruptions and rationing of electricity in the country, there has been speculation that siltation could be one of the reasons for the reduced water level in the dam. However, the principal maintenance engineer of the power plant, Stephen Kitt Mpfubusa, says siltation isn’t a problem at all. “The reservoir is quite clear. In fact, the designers who constructed it have indicated it would take a hundred years before siltation could occur and we have still 80 years to go,” he says. “The dam is just a victim of climate change.”
Mr Willie Mwaruvanda, a basin water officer, says the river flow situation is below average due to three consecutive years of drought, which have affected supply in the Great Ruaha, the most used water source in the area, and with a lot of water use conflicts around it. Great and little Ruaha rivers that flow their water into Mtera dam and Kihansi are among those exposed to high usage of water by the villagers living in the area for agriculture and livestock keeping. Water flow is therefore very much affected when there is no rain. “They take their cattle to the water sources, and it is a limited amount of water that has to be used also for electricity generation. But yet the pastoralists and farmers fight for it too,” says Mr Mwaruvanda. He says the villagers have been taking their cattle deep into the dam, and also use the water for fishing too. In addition, some of them are even farming on the shores of the dam, thereby contributing to its siltation. Rice farming is popular in Mtera district, but it is a kind of agriculture that consumes a lot of water. “Investors in the area, especially, use drains to channel water to their farms and those drains consume a lot of water. We now want to ask the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to declare Mtera dam a conserved area so as to protect it,” Mwaruvanda adds. Mr George Samuel, the Director of Mbarali District, where most of the water sources of Great Ruaha river are allocated, has also confirmed that the number of pastoralists around Ruaha River have kept on increasing from time to time, and the impact is paralysing the Mtera ecosystem, with the result that there soon won’t be enough water left at the dam for power generation. Due to the pressure on the river and the impact felt in 2006, there has been an effort by the government to relocate the pastoralists to other areas, including some parts of Mbeya, Iringa, Lindi, Rukwa, Ruvuma and Coast regions. However, so far these efforts have not been very effective as the pastoralists kept on coming back to the Great Ruaha areas, either by through connivance or corruption.
“There were reports about underground efforts by some politicians who encouraged the pastoralists to come back during the elections to vote for them. There were also cases of pastoralists bribing local leaders to allow them feed their cattle there,” says Mr Samuel. He says some pastoralists had even managed to force their way into Ihefu conserved area from time to time, despite ongoing legal action been taken against them by the authorities. “Last year eleven pastoralists forced their way into the area, and we opened a case against them, which is still pending in court,” he noted. However, the district Director dismisses the fear of water shortage in Ruaha River, and even Mtera hydro power plant. “We already have formed a team to work on the issue; why should there be no water at the hydro plant, while there is water at the main source?” Mr. Samuel queried. But according to Mwaruvanda, the fear of water shortage at the power plant is not far-fetched. He says one of the tributaries supplying Mtera from the Rufiji Basin was once blocked, apparently due to encroachment of the ecosystem, and they had to go ahead and unblocked it. So a repeat of a similar situation cannot be ruled out, hence the need to step up conservation efforts along the river catchment areas.
“We are trying to involve the people of this area in conserving the water, and so far we are getting high participation at the source areas like Kilombero, Rufiji and Ruwegu,” Mwaruvanda noted. Meanwhile, the Mtera hydro power plant is currently operating under an emergency plan. The plant can only produce 52MW of electricity, given the amount of water that is remaining there. The current output is 28MW less than its full capacity, and there is no likelihood of the water inflow increasing any soon. By this time last year, the average water level had been reached, but this time there is no such hope.
We want to expand and make the site more user friendly! To do this we want your opinion on what you would like to see added to the site.. Any ideas?!? Tell us above by posting a comment..
As 2010 became 2011, a new year came with a new life to the park. After a much prolonged dry period, the Great Ruaha River is flowing again; yet only a trickle at present. However none of the sand rivers have any flow yet. There have been several brief showers which have changed the park from its usual shades of brown to a green landscape. Its not much, but its a start. Hopefully in the next few weeks the rains will increase and the river will begin to return to its full flow by the end of January.. and won't stop like it did this year again!
The 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.
Reapirs needed to upgrade a building that will house Ruaha National Park's Wildlife Health Centre have begun. Through a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Without Borders Program, HALI (Health for Animals and Livelihood Improvement) and Ruaha National Park have joined together to create the lab so that the Park veterinarian and visiting researchers will have a facility in which to conduct their work. The park has provided the building and space to build the lab while the USFWS grant has provided the much needed funds needed to upgrade the building and purchase basic lab supplies.
The CRDB Bank has expanded its debit card services to enable its VisaCard holders to pay for services at such national parks as the Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha parks from October 2010. Similar services were already beingprovided by CRDB Bank in northern Tanzania covering the Serengeti, Ngorogoro crator, Tarangire, Manyara, Kilimanjaro mountain.
The 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 cm wide.
The 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.
It is still just flowing at my old camp in the Jongomero area. but this will last only a few more days.
The 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.
If 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.
Last 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.
By sound management policies it is possible to keep all stakeholders happy.
The general flow of the Ruaha River through the western portion of the park (from Jongomero to the bridge) is not too bad.
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.
The 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.
Coastal Travels Ltd. is bringing Northern and Southern Tanzania “closer” together. As of June 2010, they are rescheduling flights to connect Serengeti National Park in the North and Ruaha National Park in the South via Arusha. This will make it easier for a Tanzania Safari to include both Northern and Southern Circuits, ensuring a fuller, more diverse travel experience.
Amant Macha, Marketing Director, Tanzania Tourist Board said “Until recently, most first-time visitors only had time to see Tanzania’s famous icons in the North, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire. Now, as flight service improves between the North and South, the visitor can also discover in the same visit, the excitement and beauty of the South—Ruaha, the Selous, Mikumi, Kitulo.”
For Coastal’s Arusha to Ruaha flight, the aircraft takes off at 1:30 pm. This gives plenty of time for guests to land in Arusha before transferring to Ruaha flying via Tarangire. The flight arrives in Ruaha at approximately 4 pm, depending on stops (Tarangire/Dodoma). The return flight departs Ruaha at 9:30 am and arrives in Arusha around noon, depending on stops. It connects to Serengeti at 12:30 pm.
Ruaha National Park News