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Managing Water Disasters and Minimizing the Vulnerability of Mozambique to Floods - Minister Roberto White

1. Introduction
Mozambique is worldwide known by three facts:

  1. Maria Lurdes Mutola – champion of 800 meters

  2. Prawns – fabulous dish

  3. Floods – the terrific images of television international networks persist on memories of many millions of persons over all continents

In fact, Mozambique has a high likelihood of suffering from the impact of abnormal climate events due to its geographical location. Characterised by great irregularity in rainfall, the country may be battered by excessive rains that cause floods in the main river basins, or may suffer insufficient rains leading to prolonged drought. Major tropical storms take the form of cyclones with devastating winds.

The floods that occurred in the South and Center regions of Mozambique in February / March 2000 and 2001 again put in evidence the extreme vulnerability of the country to such extreme events.

At the end of 2000 through the first quarter of 2001, there were intensive and prolonged rains in the centre of Mozambique and in neighbouring countries. Increases in the flows of the main rivers (particularly the Zambezi and the Pungue in Mozambique) led to discharge increases from the Kariba Dam on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border and from the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.

In January 2001, a flood emergency, aggravated by the passage of a tropical storm, was already occurring in Zambezia, and then in northern Sofala. The resulting flooded areas expanded in February and March to include Tete and Manica provinces. The coastal region of Nampula province was also struck by Cyclone Dera in March (Fig.1). Of the total Zambezia River valley population of about 2.8 million (42 per cent of the total population of the four provinces affected), the number of people affected reached about half a million including some 223,000 displaced.

With the national effort and the support of the other SADC countries and of the international community, Mozambique is now painstakingly rebuilding its infrastructure, terribly damaged and destroyed during the floods. The total recovery of the social and economic damages, however, will take years to recover to the level of January 2000.

Natural disaster mitigation is an integral part of the Government's strategy to reduce absolute poverty through creating an environment that stimulates the acceleration and sustainability of economic growth as already contained in the Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty 2001?2005 (PARPA). The solution is to gradually reduce the impact of these disasters on the economy and on society. This is a major challenge facing the Mozambican people which can only be resolved in the long term.

The PARPA sets forth medium term overall economic objectives. It establishes critical activities that should be undertaken at macro?economic, sector, and local levels. It includes the related costs of the actions to be undertaken, and sets out the priorities for the allocation of resources so as to ensure that envisaged objectives are met. The PARPA also defines partner consultation mechanisms.

Whenever the economy suffers shocks, the possibilities for success of the PARPA can be drastically reduced since the infrastructure and delivery of education and health services and the productive sectors are severely diminished. If the government's ability to implement and deliver on established PARPA policy is hindered by uncontrollable natural disasters, then the economy will not be able to sustain rapid growth (Table 1), and will therefore not have its desired impact on reducing absolute poverty.

Table 1
Economic Indicators
Indicator 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Rate of GDP growth (%) 6.8 11.1 12.6 7.5 2.1
Annual inflation rate (%) 16.6 5.8 -1.3 6.2 11.4

While no long-term forecast is yet reliable and one flood year can be followed by a dry period or a drought, the Government of Mozambique has no doubt whatsoever about the need to improve its preparation to face a similar events.

It is also clear that no efforts of the Mozambican Government can be successful without the full and close cooperation of the neighboring countries and the support of the international community.

In fact, a large part (52%) of the Mozambican territory is included in international river basins. Mozambique shares with other SADC countries 9 basins, most of them located in the South (4) and Center (3) regions. The other 2 basins are the Zambezi and the Rovuma, this one being the only one where Mozambique is not at the downstream end of the river. In fact, with the exception of the Rovuma basin, all the other 8 basins have their flood plains totally inside Mozambique (Fig 2 - International Shared Basins).

Therefore, the floods that occur in Mozambique are mainly originated from intense rainfall in the upstream countries. This fact stresses the need of strong coordination between the countries, good channels of communication and effective integrated water resources management.

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