When Rivers Run Dry & the Age of Pandemics

February 21, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Paul Ugalde for this article.

To understand how the next disease like SARS or bird flu could arise, take a trip to the Great Ruaha River. It meanders for 300 miles through south-central Tanzania, flowing year-round from the vast Ihefu wetlands through the Ruaha National Park.

Or it used to. Starting in 1993, the river stopped running during the dry season. Some years, it’s been silent for more than 100 days.

The river offers water to the safari-famous Ruaha landscape — a grassland twice the size of Vermont that’s home to lions, giraffes, endangered wild dogs, and some 30,000 elephants. The river also has been a liquid life-force for groups of semi-nomadic farmers, including the Maasai, Barabaig, and Sukuma who live on the borders of the park — and have relied on the river for themselves and their prized herds of cattle.

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