Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science, Policy, and Practice

By P. J. Boon; B. R. Davies et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

6
River conservation in central and tropical
Africa

N. Pacini and D.M. Harper


Introduction

Despite a century and a half of European colonization of the continent, the ecology of the rivers of tropical Africa is still relatively unknown. The major rivers, and the lure of their sources, were the focal point for early exploration and, as a result, the knowledge that exists is unevenly distributed. A large amount of information and understanding exists for the Nile, for example (Rzóska, 1976) when compared with the Congo. Human uses of rivers though, are as old as our species and will continue to affect rivers as long as humankind inhabits the earth. Early Egyptian civilizations, 5000 years BC, first regulated the Nile, creating basins for flood waters and irrigation canals to build their cities. In the middle of the 20th century, the building of the High Dam at Aswan definitively changed the ecology of the entire region. The future, however, may produce even greater surprises following the launching in 1997 of the Tuzhka Project which, within some 25 years, could build an artificial channel across western Egypt to replicate the ancient river (Tadesse, 1998).

The colonization of Africa brought with it the expertise of European-style civil service, and the application of new scientific ideas (Worthington, 1958), but the development of ecological knowledge was still uneven. It was focused upon the development of fisheries (and more oriented towards lakes than rivers), upon the ecology and control of disease vectors, the control of exotic species, and the supply of drinking water. The development of concepts of conservation on land, with the growth of National Parks and other protected areas, was not mirrored by any form of aquatic conservation except where floodplains contained large mammal herds. Since the middle of the 20th century, much money and effort has been spent understanding the ecological impact of large reservoirs on major river systems such as Kariba on the Zambezi, Volta in Ghana, and Aswan on the Nile, but almost all were conducted after the event, and had little or no influence on management decisions. Even up to the present day, the occurrence of serious environmental evaluation of water resource development schemes is rare and conservation is very much a ‘catching-up’ activity, usually after the expatriate engineers, technologists and economists have gone home (Pacini et al., 1999). Capital aid programmes are rarely linked to assistance for subsequent running costs and, as a result, many large projects from unserviced University equipment to unfunded resettlement schemes have failed to deliver environmental improvements (see also Wishart et al., this volume, Part II).

The conservation of tropical aquatic habitats has been overshadowed by the mobilization of public interest and support generated by the urgent need to conserve tropical rain forests. Running waters in particular still have a low profile within the new nations of tropical Africa. National parks and protected areas are often delimited by rivers instead of being set around them, thus disregarding the link between rivers and their catchments. This link is particularly crucial in Africa where water is more precious than in many other parts of the world. Indeed, current estimates forecast significant decreases in water

-155-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science, Policy, and Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 550

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?