Indeed, until recently, it was generally accepted that the Niger River’s equilibrium was threatened by silting alone. However, according to IRD experts, the situation is much more complex and disturbing. Human activities are directly implicated, activities triggered by urban and demographic emergencies.
In Mali, a country primarily concerned with the gradual deepening of the Niger River bed upstream, “constructed surface areas have increased between 1986 and 1996 by approximately 3700 hectares” and “over 60 extraction and main storage sites are active along the Niger River, up to 150km away from Bamako.”
The construction industry is singled out as responsible, even though it is reacting to the high levels of population growth and urbanization in Mali. The IRD article highlights the “sand fishers” and more generally all those involved in construction. There are of course those that dive, often deeper than 3 meters, to extract sand and gravel, but there are also those who commissioned such activities.
The IRD researchers tackle other phenomena, such as new construction on the Upper Niger, highlighting the need for improved governance, which takes into account all of the region’s economic, social, and human issues. All these questions will be addressed by the Fondation Chirac at the Forum for “Solidarity for Water in the countries of the Niger River Basin,” in October in Bamako.