The ChallengeRoyal HaskoningDHV is helping to realise an innovative master plan, devised by the Dutch Rivierenland Water Board and financially supported by an ORIO grant, to tackle disease risk and bring sustainable farming back to the Senegal River delta, West Africa.
Stretching some 1,800 kilometres, the Senegal River is West Africa's second longest river. Its delta, lying between the arid Sahel and the Sahara, is central to the social and economic life of the local population. Approximately 30,000 people live in the proposed project area, divided equally over both Senegal and Mauritania.
Back in the 1970s, the creation of two dams on the Senegal River Delta seemed the perfect solution to the area's needs for farming land, electric power and fresh water. What was not envisaged at the time was that the absence of salt water from c.100,000 hectares of land between the two dams would lead to the rampant growth of Typha, an aquatic plant that thrives in the resultant freshwater lake.
The plant's proliferation limits water access for the population, reduces the potential for agriculture and increases the occurrence of diseases like bilharzia (also known as schistosomiasis) and malaria.
The solutionThe plan that our team is helping to bring to reality will create useable parcels of agricultural land, improve access to the water and also help to control the growth of the Typha, thus lowering disease risk.
Eight polders (low lying tracts of land enclosed by embankments or dikes), 63 kilometres of dikes and 60 kilometres of drainage canals will be constructed in the river delta in an area covering between 3,000 and 4,000 hectares.
George Peters, Project Director Royal HaskoningDHV comments: "Creating the polders will make it possible to use the area for farming again, thus preventing the Typha from growing and spreading. The local people will again get access to the river and thus to fresh water for irrigation and trade."
The client for this project is Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal ('OMVS') - a multi-governmental organisation, drawing together representatives at Ministerial level from Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal to manage the Senegal River and its drainage basin. It aims to promote self-sufficiency in food, to improve the income of the local population and to preserve the natural ecosystems.
Mr Fawzi Bedredine, project manager at OMVS, said: "The construction of two dams created a large freshwater lake between the dams. What were previously flood plains are now permanently under water. This led to a sharp reduction in salt levels in the water between the dames, which in turn led to a massive proliferation of Typha, which grows vigorously in the freshwater environment.
"The solution which Royal HaskoningDHV developed offers real hope that we can tackle the disease issues and return the area to profitable agricultural use, providing a sustainable income for the local population and ensuring the area, and its people, thrive again."