- West African leaders on Wednesday endorsed a 20-year rescue plan to save the Niger River from extinction. The US $8.6 billion project includes reforesting, rehabilitating plains and removing silt from the 4,200 km long river.
Approved at a summit in the Nigerien capital Niamey, the huge project expected to complete in 2027, will be implemented in four five-year phases.
The charter, adopted by the Niger Basin Authority (ABN), obligated the nine member nations to commit to the preservation of the ecosystem as well as ensure a fair and rational use of water to meet the primary needs of the poorer populations. ABN is an intergovernmental group comprising the nine countries irrigated by the Niger River.
Niger River, Africa's third largest river after the Nile and Congo, cut across Guinea, Mali, Niger and Niger. Over the years, the river has been seriously threatened by drought and silting thus drastically reducing its flow and endangering navigation and the fish population.
More than 110 million people, majority of whom are very poor live in the river's basin area.
More than 80% of the funds allocated for the 639 projects have been earmarked for the development of social and economic infrastructures. A smaller amount would be earmarked for the protection of natural resources and ecosystems.
ABN is scheduled to hold a donor meeting on 23 June in Niamey to raise the €1.4 billion euros needed to finance the project's first four-year phase.
Niger's President Mamadou Tandja warned against the drastic fall of up to 55% in the river's flow over the past 20 years, mainly due to climate change and growing populations. He said "the challenges and stakes" of improving the Niger river basin posed a heavy potential price for both food and water resources security in future.
The summit, attended by Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, also adopted a Water Charter to ensure that ABN members share the river's resources fairly and responsibly. As such, member countries will only be allowed to use water to satisfy their citizens' most basic needs. Penalty awaits any country that use water excessively or pollute the river.
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