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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Senegal: Manantali Dam

Senegal: Manantali Dam
Date distributed (ymd): 971117
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
The International Rivers Network lays out evidence of extensive negative environmental consequences from the proposed Manantali Dam in the Senegal River Valley and calls for expressions of concern to proposed funders, including the African Development Bank.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Manantali Dam Changes Will Make a Bad Situation Worse

by Lori Pottinger

The following article appeared in the October 1997 edition of World Rivers Review, published by International Rivers Network.

The Manantali Dam in Africa's Senegal River Valley is a "poster child" of bad dams. When it was built in the 1980s, it put an end to 1,000 years of successful flood-recession farming; created major economic impacts for downstream farmers, fishers and herders; harmed fisheries, ground water resources and riverine forests, and turned an area with a low incidence of water-borne disease into one of the worst-infected in Africa. Besides all the problems it caused, it also failed to provide promised benefits. The conversion from flood-recession farming (i.e., the cultivation of riverbank areas enriched by silt from retreating annual floods) to irrigated agriculture has been much slower and costlier than expected. In addition, irrigated agriculture has actually been less productive than flood-recession f arming, and contributes to water-borne diseases via irrigation canals and water-storage areas. The project has yet to produce any power, and navigation benefits have been virtually nil.

In late June, despite serious environmental and socioeconomic concerns raised by a host of critics, the World Bank approved a US$38 million loan to help finance installation and operation of the dam's turbines. (The Bank was not a lender for the original construction of the dam.) The plan is to increase power output at the expense of other uses, with hydropower having first priority when reservoir levels fall.

Critics were especially concerned that power production (which has been increased to 200 MW from the originally planned 76 MW) is moving ahead with no guarantee that project authorities will implement a much-needed, comprehensive water management plan. A well-designed plan would reduce incidence of disease and re-create a regular "flood" large enough to restore downstream livelihoods and ecosystems. Although the Bank says it supports the need for such a plan, it took few positive steps toward this goal before approving the loan, promising only to study the matter and consult with stakeholders while the power infrastructure is installed. It created no incentive and no funding mechanism to redistribute water for non-power uses, did not link power start-up to preparation of a water use plan, and provided no mechanism for timely and effective consultation with affected persons. In fact, Bank staff met with a few hundred people in 16 communities to discuss the project, when more than 100,000 households could be affected by it.

The Bank's ability to push project authorities to adopt a more comprehensive water-management plan will be much reduced after power production begins. The Bank's plan is apparently to endorse, with token changes, an existing dam-management plan that does not even meet minimum agreed-upon flood inundation goals, much less address health or ecological impacts.

Better water-management planning for health is an urgent need that the Bank was well aware of when it approved the loan. Water-related diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis have increased dramatically in the valley since the Manantali and the downstream Diama dams were built, and now claim 8,000 lives a year. It is estimated that adequate measures to manage flows from the dam could reduce the number of deaths by 2,500. The increase in schistosomiasis results from the creation of bodies of fresh water, such as irrigation canals and ponds, that breed disease-bearing snails previously controlled by seasonal fluctuations and salt inflows. A distinguished panel chaired by WHO recommended a water-management plan to manage these diseases. The Bank will rely instead on a program of pier construction (to reduce water contact), monitoring and drug-treatment. There is little reason to think that this program will succeed in reducing water contact.

Another major failing in the project is the meager amount of water it will require for downstream needs. Before the dam disrupted the natural flooding cycle, tens if not hundreds of thousands of hectares were fished, farmed and browsed the flood recession zone. Dam construction reduced this significantly, and, as the Bank admits, the power project will reduce annual flooding by another 15,000 hectares annually even under optimistic rainfall assumptions. A long-standing official planning target is to allow for a minimum of 50,000 hectares to be farmed with reasonable frequency. The Bank agreed to a plan that will result in an average flood cultivation of only 30,000 hectares, and that for only two out of three years. It makes no provision at all to restore ground water or forest resources or the 350,000 hectares of downstream fish habitat that was destroyed by the dam.

"The lesson of experience with large, Bank-funded dams is that this approach to mitigation--build now, plan later--is doomed to failure," says Maike Rademaker of the German NGO Urgewald. "This project as approved with condemn hundreds of thousands of Senegal River Valley people to avoidable impoverishment, nutrition deficiencies and disease."

Co-financing for the US$445 million turbine retrofit is either committed or expected from the European Union, Canada, Germany, France, the Nordic Development Fund and the African Development Bank (AfDB), EIB, Islamic Development Bank, FADES, the West African Development Bank and local governments. Citing the health concerns raised above, the Nordic Development Fund declined to give expected support for the project this summer. The AfDB is expected to make a decision later this year, possibly mid-November.

What You Can Do

Write to the AfDB or other funders to express your concern. AfDB: Omar Kabbaj, President, African Development Bank, African Development Fund and Chairman, board of directors, 01 B.P. 1387, Abidjan 01, Cote d'Ivoire, Fax: 225.20.4909; Tel: 225.20.4444. Call or email Lori Pottinger for a list of other donor addresses.

Lori Pottinger, Director, Southern Africa Program, International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703, USA Tel. (510) 848 1155 Fax (510) 848 1008 Web:

Additional information on this issue, as well as on dam projects in Namibia and Lesotho, can be found on the IRN website at

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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