The Source, Annual Review 2020

The Bamgire project concluded that drying out the wetlands of the Inner Niger Delta would stimulate a major outflow of migrants and exacerbate the growing political instability in Mali.

The productivity of the Inner Niger Delta depends on the annual flood pulse during the rainy season each October.

But the dam and anticipated irrigation diversions would wreck all that. “While food production will increase in the Office du Niger, it will drop in the delta.” Projects intended to make life better for Malians would likely make it worse – especially for those who are already poor and marginalised. The new hydrological, ecological and social analysis, collectively known as Bamgire project, confirms a direct relationship between the extent of annual flooding in the wetland and the delta’s productivity. Its modelling concludes that the planned dam and irrigation works would reduce the production of rice that feeds Malians and people in neighbouring countries by 11%, fish catches that also supply markets across the region by 20%, and the elephant grass, known locally as bourgou, on which millions of livestock from across West Africa rely on for dry-season grazing by 7%, with repercussions for nomadic herders from Mauritania to Chad. Clay for pottery and wood for fuel would also decrease. But these change in averages hides much bigger changes in the likely frequencies of extreme drought conditions, such as those experienced in the 1970s and 1980s, when they

Guinea wants the Fomi dam, which would triple existing water storage in the upper river, to become a power hub for the region. It could supply Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. Meanwhile, Mali wants to use the regulated flow of water through the dam’s turbines to irrigate a giant state-run agricultural area known as the Office du Niger. The plan is to triple the irrigated area to 4600 square kilometres by 2045, and grow two crops a year for the first time. But the water allocation for hydropower and intensive irrigated agriculture affects the delta, which is just downstream of the canal that diverts water for the Office du Niger. In the wet season, the delta swells to inundate an area the size of Belgium. This natural food production system feeds 40% of Mali’s cattle from wetland grasses, and produces 80% of its fish, sustaining the livelihoods of some three million people – fishers, recession farmers and migrating herders who move into the still-green oasis during the region’s long dry season. “The delta and its ecosystems are vital for food security in Mali, as well as the wider region,” says Karounga Keita, the Mali-based Sahel director of Wetlands International.

Planned upstream dam construction and irrigation works would reduce the Inner Niger Delta’s fish production by 20%.



Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

Wetlands International Annual Review 2020

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