Releasing the river: Restoring the rhythms of the Zambian wetlands

False colour NASA MODIS image of the Kafue Flats in flood and the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam (© Wikimedia Creative Commons, 2008)

Imagine an African landscape nearly half the size of the Netherlands, antelopes and zebra grazing a huge, flat wetland full of storks, cranes and wading birds. This is the Kafue Flats of Zambia – at least, it WAS the Kafue Flats, until the 1970’s when two hydroelectric dams were built to supply the entire region with electricity. Since that time, the animals have been dying out and the local people going hungry as the natural water cycles of the Kafue Flats wetlands have become disrupted. The 250 kilometres of the Kafue River Basin lying between the two dams have become too dry in the wet season – and too wet in the dry season.

For the last 5 years, the Dutch Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF-Netherlands) has been working together with the local tribes and businesses to persuade the Zambian Electricity Company to change the way it operates the dams to emulate the natural water cycles once more… In this programme we journey through the Kafue Flats and witness the beginnings of a new, more natural way to manage these world famous wetlands.

Producer: Anne Blair Gould

Broadcast: November 15, 2004