The Impact of Water Management on Poverty and the Environment in the Upper Niger River Basin (Mali)

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"Water shortage is a severe problem for millions of people living along the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. Consequently, communities residing in the semi-arid, western Sahel zone fully depend on rivers such as the Niger for their livelihoods. Mali is a classic case of a 'river-dependent economy' that is subject to enormous seasonal variation in rainfall and river flow. A popular solution to this climate dependency in the western Sahel zone has been the development of hydro-electric and hydro-agricultural irrigation schemes. Although Mali's hydro-electric and hydro-agricultural potential has yet to be fully realised, it is widely questioned whether the costs and benefits of such mega-investments are properly estimated. Besides the economic feasibility (i.e. direct costs and benefits) of additional dams, it is still unclear what the indirect effects of hydro-electric and hydro-agricultural schemes are on downstream m beneficiaries of rivers. These beneficiaries include fishermen, cattle breeders, shipping companies and farmers, as well as the biodiversity of the river and connected flood-plains. The main objective of this study is to determine the role of dams and irrigation schemes in the overall economy and ecology of the Inner Niger Delta and the upstream region (extending across both Mali and Guinea). An integrated assessment has been conducted to determine the direct and indirect costs and benefits of different Niger River management regimes. This involved an analysis of i) potential changes to the hydrology, ii) subsequent ecological impacts, and iii) social and economic effects. Estimating the costs and benefits associated with dams in the Niger River basin required the use of various valuation techniques, such as the production function approach and the contingent valuation method. Overall, this study recommends improving the performance of the existing infrastructure, as well as the economic activities, in the Inner Niger Delta. Our analysis shows that this is a significantly more efficient way to increase economic growth, reduce poverty and protect the environment in the region, compared to building a new dam and hydropower plant."
poverty, valuation, economics, river basins, wetlands