BY Fredrick Ngugi, 7:00am July 19, 2016,

The Significance of the Niger Basin

The Niger Basin is home to more than 100 million people who all rely on the Niger River for survival. Estimated to be 4,200 km long with an annual flow of 180 km3, the Niger River is the third-longest river in Africa.

The Niger River is one of the few perennial sources of water that have been feeding the arid and semi-arid lands of the entire sub-Saharan region for thousands of years. Communities of farmers, fishermen, and pastoralists in the Niger Basin depend on this river.

Every year, the river floods the inner Niger Delta, bringing with it fisheries and sufficient water for farming and domestic use. It flows from the highlands of Guinea Conakry through the arid lands of the Sahel and empties into the Niger Delta in Nigeria.

Millions of water birds also migrate annually from as far as Europe to feed and breed in the inner Niger Delta.

However, this region has recently come under serious threat from the ongoing construction of massive hydropower dams, climate change, terrorism, civil conflict, and disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, which have left the population exposed to rural poverty and insecurity.

Disaster in the Making

The Niger River’s essential water flow is constantly under pressure from major projects, such as dams for hydropower and massive irrigation schemes in upper Niger and southern Mali.

These projects are said to consume large amounts of water, which inhabitants of the inner Niger Delta depend on for survival.

This interference — coupled with unpredictable rains associated with climate change — has led to water scarcity, which translates to less fish, fewer livestock, less farm produce, and ultimately drought.

Remedial Measures

The World Bank advises the countries of the Niger Basin, including Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, Chad, Benin, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Niger, to find ways in which they can cooperate to develop water infrastructure that will address major development challenges to the region.

Governments within the Niger Basin have teamed up to form a progressive river management organization known as the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), whose task is to establish and support a cooperative legal framework to manage water resources.

This body also nurtures partnerships to encourage potential investments between countries that share River Niger.

Since its establishment in 1980, the NBA has continually ensured that water usage within the Niger Basin makes sense to everyone and benefits the population within.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: July 19, 2016

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