Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
On March 13, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew over East Africa and captured this true-color image of three of the major lakes in the region. From southwest to northeast they are the ovoid Lake Victoria, the branching Lake Kyoga and the long Lake Turkana. Several other smaller lakes also appear in this image.
Africa contains a total area of 32,244,050 sq km (11,677.293 sq mi) and is the second most populous and second largest continent in the world (Asia is first). Africa covers just over 20 percent of Earth’s total land area, and about one-seventh of the world’s population. In addition, it has been estimated that Africa holds about 30,000 cubic kilometers (7,197 cubic miles) of water in large lakes. This is the largest volume of water in large lakes of any continent.
Lakes are an integral and important part of human lives, serving as a source of livelihoods, recreation, and nourishment, as well as critical sources of drinking water. Lakes can also be risk factors, especially to those living near them, as they can be major sources of natural disasters (such as floods) as well as hosts to diseases and pollutants. As populations increase, more stress is putting on the natural ecosystem of a lake, often decreasing the ability of people to safely use the water or decreasing fisheries. Climate change can also dramatically damage a lake’s ecosystem, such as the dramatic drying of Lake Chad, which has lost about 90% of its former size.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s publication “African Lakes, Atlas of Our Changing Environment” (2006), the availability of water resources will have a critical impact on the success of future efforts to alleviate poverty across Africa. And, given that the water sources are becoming threatened through over-use, pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, and climate change, UNEP encourages the international community to become aware of the issues of water resources in Africa and to take action to protect them.