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Click: STATEMENT BY OMAR KABBAJ: SECOND WORLD WATER FORUM

INTEGRATED RIVER BASIN MANAGEMENT

Below: Satellite image of Invasives choking the African Union's largest lake, which is also the world's second largest fresh water lake. Lake Victoria is at the base of shallow high-altitude basin that is on the northern side of the cluster of known as the African Great Lakes.
It is imperative to plan optimum resourse development in large areas of the African Union. In planning consideration has to be given to the total resources and requirements of entire river basins and of the lands adjoining river basins. River Basins constitute land area drained by a river and its tributaries and form a framework for understanding the inputs and outputs of the system. A balanced management of water resources is a prerequisite to ensure quality of life in the African Union and a sustainable socio-economic development. The issues raised are numerous and complicated.

The solutions must allow for:
[1] Contending with natural catastrophes and the risks of erosion, floods or drought, taking into account physical and water management;

[2] reliably meeting the urban and rural populations requirements in terms of good quality portable water, in order to improve hygiene and health and to prevent important outbreaks of disease, purifying farmlands and developing appropriate irrigation systems to produce enough food;

[3] harmoniously developing industry, energy production, recreational activities and, in some areas, tourism and waterways navigation (including maritime engineering);

[4] preventing and controlling pollution of all kinds and origins, in order to protect fauna and optimize fish breeding for human consumption, while meeting the requirements of various utilizations and more generally;

[5] preserving the biodiversity of the aquatic environment.


Invasives choking Africa's largest freshwater body, L. Victoria.

WATER RESOURCES IN THE AFRICAN UNION
Mean rainfall in the African Union is about 670 mm, but there are great regional disparities. Although Africa has abundant water resources, they are spatially and temporally maldistributed because of variability of climate, topography, and geology. Of these factors, climate is probably the most important because the distribution of rainfall is determined by the wind system, topography, and pressure of large water bodies.

The heaviest rainfall occurs near the equator, especially in the region from the Niger Delta to the Congo River basin. Along the coasts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Madagascar, annual total rainfall exceeds 2000 mm. Northward, rainfall decreases rapidly to about 250 mm at 18N, except along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, where the annual total ranges between 250 and 1 000 mm.

In the rainfall distribution between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, there is a north-south decrease, whereas farther south there is an east-west decrease. Reliability also decreases, with variability of more than 40% in the deserts to less than 15% over the tropics. The humid tropics generally receive a lot of rainfall throughout the year, whereas the subtropical semi-arid regions experience marked rainfall seasonality and frequent droughts. The deserts are water deficient throughout the year.

The semi-arid region is most affected by droughts (affected population is about 30 million in 1985). The poor spatial distribution and temporal variability of natural resources in the region make small-scale, community-based, low to medium-level technological approaches ineffective.

The climatic variability has an impact on the runoff characteristics of Africa. Although there is considerable runoff in tropical West and Central Africa, the overall runoff of the continent is lower than the runoff in North and Central America, which have a land area of only 80% of that of Africa. The high rate of evaporation, about 570 mm/year, reduces the effectiveness of rainfall and introduces marked seasonality in the river regime.

Total river runoff amounts to 4.2 x 1012 m3/year, and total stable runoff is about 2.1 x 1012 m3/year (Endersen and Myhrstad 1987). Africa withdraws about 3% of its annual river flow, but the percentage going to countries north of the Northern Interior is high. Although the Congo Basin alone has more than 50% of the total river runoff, Africa requires only 0.5-1% of the stable runoff, or a maximum of 1.06 x 1010 m3/year, to adequately supply its entire population.

The main characteristic of the runoff is its seasonality, which makes harnessing water resources possible only through the use of reservoirs. Most of the reservoirs use capital-intensive means, requiring large amounts of foreign or donor assistance. It would take the larger tax base of a unified government to be able to build an adequate reservoir system without foreign aid. Moreover, many reservoirs are situated in sparsely populated areas, thus increasing the cost of delivering water to inhabited regions.

Lakes and dams regulate the flow of running water. They are also receptacles of sediments and other pollutants. These sediments build up behind the dams and can quickly diminish the storage capacity of reservoirs, interrupt sediment for floodplain fertility, and disrupt the integrity of the delta lands.

The African lakes have a total volume of 30,567 km3, covering a surface area of 165,581 km2. Lake Tanganyika alone could supply 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa through the extraction of only 0.05% of its volume annually. All the major lakes in Africa are shared by more than two states, except Lake Tana in Ethiopia.

These lakes contain more aquatic biodiversity than any other lakes in the world. Lake Victoria has more than 300 endemic species; Lake Tanganyika, more than 140; and Lake Malawi, nearly 500. Pollution, as well as misuse of the water, poses the greatest threat to this aquatic biodiversity.

Africa has 2.4% of the world's large reservoirs (those more than 15 m high). Half of Africa's are in South Africa. These multipurpose reservoirs were mainly designed for hydropower generation, although many are used for water supply, irrigation, industry, and domestic purposes.

HIGH COSTS OF AFRICAN RESERVOIR MANAGEMENT
However, the development of dams and reservoirs is currently fraught with environmental problems, such as high rates of siltation and evaporation, tropical diseases, weeds, and eutrophication. River water generally carries substantial amounts of suspended matter into lakes and reservoirs. Although these particles could be removed by presedimentation, followed by coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and filtration, dams and reservoirs require huge capital outlays for construction, operation, and maintenance, far beyond the means of a single state. Moreover, the mineral constituents in lakes vary considerably, and some lakes, such as Turkana in Kenya, have salinities beyond acceptable limits and require demineralization.

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 Today's Date: November 21, 2017
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