Since the early 1980s, the Niger River has experienced a 55 percent decrease in flow, driving down fish stocks and making navigation difficult. Scientists blame that on industrial waste, increasing population demands and climate change.
As Africa’s third largest river, where nearly 110 million people live in its basin, the mighty Niger begins in tropical Guinea and snakes through Sahelien Mali, desert-like Niger and arid and coastal Nigeria. Its health also affects populations in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Cameroon. The onset of desertification has seriously influenced the Sahelian states and has also contributed to the lower stream flow.
Last month, nine countries that live on the 4,200 km basin hatched an $8 billion, 20-year plan to help restore a little life in the Niger. They will do so with a series of reforesting plans, projects to rehab the plains abutting the river and dredging silt from the river bed. Constructing hydro-electric dams have also been included in the program as well as transport and river fishing regulations.
Funds, you ask? Yeah, the nine governments have secured nearly one-fifth of the total budget. The Islamic Development Bank has promised to build two dams – one in Niger and the second in Mali. For the rest, the countries hope to raise a large portion of the funds at a donor’s conference in June. Mark you calendars.