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Study: To prevent flood damage and siltation, give rivers room to flow
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Sep 27, 2017

At least 13 dead in Uganda flooding
Kampala (AFP) Sept 27, 2017 - Rainstorms in western Uganda caused flooding that swamped houses, killing at least 13 people including two babies, police said Wednesday.

Rubanda district police commander Ramathan Tai said officers in the rural town of Nfasha recovered seven bodies during a heavy rainstorm Tuesday night and found six more the following day.

"There are reports of some people missing, but we are yet to establish the number as some homes were washed away during the rainstorm," Tai said.

"The bodies so far recovered include two babies, three women and eight men whom we suspect were in houses when the storm hit," he said.

Rubanda and neighbouring districts in western Uganda have been hit with heavy rainstorms over the last week.

Local media reported the death of two infants after floodwaters inundated a hospital in nearby Rukungiri district last week.

New research out of Germany suggests efforts to curb erosion aren't sufficient to prevent severe siltation in rivers.

In a paper published this week in the journal Land Degradation and Development, scientists at the Technical University of Munich argue siltation will remain a problem as long as rivers are straightjacketed and denied the freedom to twist and bend.

"The prevention of erosion alone, as water and fisheries management have long demanded, does not then help river beds," Karl Auerswald, an ecologist at TUM, said in a news release.

Auerswald and his colleagues have spent the past several years sampling the sediments accumulating at the bottom of Moosach, a tributary of the river Isar near Munich. Their analysis suggests erosion mitigation efforts have done little to prevent the problems caused by siltation.

Siltation is the flow of silt and sediment into the river. The particles become suspended in the river and accumulate on the riverbed. Siltation causes problems for fish, mussels and other aquatic organisms.

Oxygen-filled cavities between gravel on the riverbed are essential for many microorganisms. Fish also used the cavities to lay their eggs. But these gaps are often filled up by sediment.

The latest research suggests this problem will persist -- even as erosion is reduced -- as long as rivers are confined and straightened. According to Auerswald, Moosach is no longer a river as much as it is a canal-like channel. The diagnosis holds true for rivers throughout Germany and the world, researchers say.

Given room to roam, rivers can handle moderate amounts of siltation.

"The entry of erosion material also occurs under natural conditions," Auerswald said. "Under natural conditions, however, the riverbed is constantly being relocated and the cavity system is cleared from the inundated floodplain by the groundwater flow."

Exasperating the problems of river-straightjacketing and uncontrolled siltation are the lack of floodplains and buffering habitat. The human development and engineering that has squeezed rivers into straight lines, Auerswald warns, has also removed buffer of zones of vegetation that help prevent flood damage and erosion.

The solution to the problem, researchers argue, is fairly simple: leave rivers alone and give them space.

"Whatever floodplains are still around must absolutely be off-limits," Auerswald said. "We would do well to allow the rivers to meander on their own again."

Six die in Indian mudslide; 12 dead DR Congo floods
Mumbai (AFP) Sept 20, 2017
Six people were killed Wednesday in a landslide in northeast India, while heavy rain in the western city of Mumbai caused havoc after a plane skidded off the runway and became stuck in mud. Authorities in the remote Himalayan state of Sikkim said the six died when their home was swept away by a landside following a monsoon deluge. "Four others have been injured," Sudhakar Rao, Sikkim dep ... read more

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