Damming the Senegal floods
Plans to control the floods of the Senegal river have been in existence since the nineteenth century. The Sahelian drought of the seventies brought the governments of Mali, Senegal and Mauritania to create the 'Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Sénégal' (OMVS) and to proceed with the construction of two major dams in an attempt to develop irrigated agriculture, hydroelectric power and river navigation.
The first to be completed (in 1986) was Diama dam. It was built to stop the dry-season intrusion of seawater along the river which could penetrate over 100 km inland. The second dam is a storage dam at Manantali in Mali (completed in 1990) on the Bafing, the main tributary of the river, which supplies approximately 50% of the annual flow. The reservoir is theoretically capable of stocking 11 billion m3 of the strongly seasonal rainfall on the Fouta Djalon mountains in Guinea. The water can be gradually released over a longer period than the natural strongly seasonal flood.
To date, the entire management approach of OMVS has been strictly sectoral. Although locally and in some sectors tremendous gains have been achieved, several indicators point out that the majority of the stakeholders in the valley have not benefited from the interventions of OMVS. Most inhabitants of the Senegal river basin were dependent on natural productivity of the area, which was closely linked to the extent and duration of the floods. The floods were the basis of a closely-knit set of multiple uses and functions in the Senegal floodplains and delta.
In 1997, OMVS started to collaborate with the World Bank to develop a GEF project for the Senegal river basin. After a series of consultation a technical programme has been elaborated that focuses on establishing a viable integrated resource management strategy that focuses on water, biodiversity and environment. The programme focuses on establishing a series of activities at national levels that together form a cohesive strategy for the river basin. However, sofar insufficient attention has been given to the need for a wide consultation and participation of all stakeholders for the implementation of a sustainable management of the Senegal river basin.
Broadening water management goals
To establish an effective stakeholder participation it is essential that the people living in the basin are sufficiently informed about the water resources management policy of OMVS, especially the management of the up-stream Manantali dam.
This obviously has much to do with the flood characteristics created by the water releases that largely affect the agricultural, domestic en natural environment.
Secondly, a sustainable basin management needs to incorporate a full knowledge of the environmental conditions within the basin. Invasive plant species, seasonally severe pollution and serious water borne diseases are just some of the aspects that need to be dealt with.
Engaging with the community
The perception of the people in the basin of these issues is of crucial importance. What are in there opinion the essential problems they see themselves faced with? And, what is the role of water management in creating and solving some of these problems?
Impacts of dam releases on fisheries, irrigated land, urban areas as well as nature reserves are known throughout the basin. However, no efforts have been made so far by OMVS to establish a power neutral dialogue with all stakeholders to both inform them and learn from their experiences.
A sustainable management of the Senegal river basin based on the full participation of all stakeholder.