Somalia River Breakages Update – August 2021

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Recurrent flooding along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers in Southern Somalia has been one of the key challenges for the riverine communities. The last 10 years have seen more than six major flood events including in; 2010, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The last three events had magnitudes larger than the one associated with the historical 50-year return period flood occurrence. Such sequential events have had hazardous impacts, eroding resilience, economic reserves, health and livelihoods. Flooding and the associated effects along the two rivers has damaged vast farmland with crops and infrastructure. Soil erosion as a results of poor watershed management has gradually led to deposition of sediment into the two rivers, causing the infilling of the riverbeds and consequently raising it. For instance, in Jowhar, in Middle Shabelle, the river bed raised by close to 1.0 m since 2015. This leads to reduced capacity of the river channel and over bank spillage in flows much lower than expected. SWALIM has been mapped twice a year the river breakages along the two rivers since 2015. This had been made possible with the use of World View Very High-Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery provided by Digital Globe. Due to lower temporal resolution of images present in Digital Globe archive, Pleiades Images provided by Airbus supplemented the image gaps in some areas. Where possible the preliminary findings from the images were verified with field observations to confirm the status of river breakages. In this case, the field river breakages surveys were carried out in Belet Weyne, Jowhar, Balcad and Afgooye districts all along the Shabelle River. In other cases, breakages which had been verified on VHR in March 2021 and there was either cloudy images or no images at all in the current assessment have been marked as ‘Not verified’. Along the Juba River, 32 open points, 6 overflows and another 123 potential breakages and 75 potential overflows were identified. Further, 103 open points, 106 overflows and 103 potential breakages and 322 potential overflows were identified along the Shabelle River. It has been observed that the number of points either open or overflows has been increasing over the years probably due to the continuous weakening of the river banks following three years of successive heavy floods in 2018, 2019 and 2020. These points need immediate closure or reinforcement before the 2021 Deyr rainy season which is expected to start in Mid-October 2021. SWALIM is pleased to share with you district maps of the status of open river points along the Juba and Shabelle, which can be downloaded from the links below;
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Date of publication: 
August, 2021