February 16, 2011

Niger Delta Threatened By Libya Water Plan

From Yale Environment360
The floods in what geographers call the inner Niger delta nurture abundant fish for the Bozo people, who lay their nets in every waterway and across the lakes. . . . This inland delta is Africa’s second-largest floodplain and one of its most unique wetlands. Seen from space, it is an immense smudge of green and blue on the edge of the Sahara.

But this rare and magnificently productive ecosystem is now facing an unprecedented threat, as a Libyan-backed enterprise has begun construction of a project inside Mali that will divert large amounts of Niger River water for extensive irrigation upstream.

This is all part of a grand plan by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to make his desert nation self-sufficient in food through long-term deals with nearby countries to grow food for Libya. Mali’s president has agreed to the scheme, which numerous experts say will enhance Libyan food security at the expense of Malian food security by sucking dry the river that feeds the inland delta, diminishing the seasonal floods that support rich biodiversity — and thriving agriculture and fisheries vital to a million of Mali’s poorest citizens — on the edge of the Sahara desert.

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