Spread along the Mozambican channel and crossed by 9 major cross-border rivers, Mozambique and its 30 million inhabitants have to share the limited fresh water resources they are offered. Dinis Juizo is a civil engineer, specialised in hydrology and water resources management at the Eduardo Mondlane University, based in Maputo. His job is to identify and implement tools to ensure access to fresh water to every Mozambican, in this water-stressed area of Southern Africa. Let’s get to know him!
Pleased to meet you Dinis! Could you first tell us a bit more about what a hydrological engineer does?
Fresh water resources are limited. The hydrologist’s job is to calculate the available water resources within a specific zone and to help design plans for the sustainable usage of this water.
Our main concern is to take the whole environment into account. Building a dam on a river for power production may seem like the perfect solution in areas experiencing variable climates like ours, as water can be stored during rain seasons and reused downstream once it went through the dam. However, the dam modifies the natural characteristics of the environment and can have other negative impacts.
As you can see, water is a very complex topic. We therefore must work with many other scientists to provide accurate analyses. The inputs of chemists, geographers, environmental engineers, social scientists or agricultural specialists are crucial. Coming from different backgrounds, we learn from each other.
Why is it important for Mozambique to manage its water flow?
Mozambique is a downstream country bordering the Indian Ocean. This means that out of 15 transboundary rivers of the SADC region it shares, for 9 of them the country is situated downstream and is the last one benefiting from the flow in 8 of its shared rivers. Other upstream countries such as South Africa or Zimbabwe are thus able to use the water before Mozambicans are. The Zambezi river is for example the fourth-longest river in Africa. It flows through 8 countries, Mozambique being the last one and receiving a modified flow regime due to upstream developments.
Some areas in Southern Mozambique (Gaza and Inhambane provinces) also receive very low annual rainfall, thus becoming very arid. Water sharing is therefore a major topic for the country, its population and its environment.
Is that why you became a scientist?
That’s right! After my studies in Maputo and in the Netherlands, I chose to specialise in underground water. At that time, Mozambique was coming out of its civil war and most people did not have access to water. Taping ground water was the quickest way to ensure rural water supply. A few years later, I decided to switch to surface water and pursue my studies with a PhD in Sweden, before coming back here for the reasons I explained earlier. Knowing our rivers better gives scientists and policy-makers tools to ensure equitable access to water. I feel that I am contributing to helping Mozambicans.
How do you collaborate with IRD?
IRD is a long-term partner in environmental studies in Mozambique. I work on a daily basis with Stéphanie Duvail, geographer at IRD. I am currently coordinating the young team associated with IRD dedicated to proposing innovative tools and approaches for natural resource governance. This interdisciplinary team studies the Incomati river and the flow needed for communities to thrive and for the environment to provide its usual services. I also add my hydrology inputs to three other IRD-led projects on Southern and Eastern Africa coastal areas.
Many students and young researchers benefit from these projects in the area. My partners and I are deeply engaged in the training of the new generation of Mozambican scientists.
Thank you Dinis!