Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

The Bamendjin Dam and Its Implications in the Upper Noun Valley, Northwest Cameroon

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

The Bamendjin Dam and Its Implications in the Upper Noun Valley, Northwest Cameroon

Article excerpt

Abstract

Understanding the environmental consequences and socio-economic importance of dams is vital in assessing the effects of the Bamendjin dam in the development of agrarian communities in the Upper Noun Valley (UNV) in Northwest Cameroon. The Bamendjin dam drainage basin and its floodplain are endowed with abundant water resources and rich biodiversity, however, poverty is still a dominant factor that accounts for unsustainable management of natural resources by the majority of mral inhabitants in the area. The dam was created in 1975 and has since then exacerbated the environmental conditions and human problems of the region due to lack of flood control during rainy seasons, lost hope of improved navigation system, unclean drinking water sources, population growth, rising unemployment, deteriorating environmental health issues, resettlement problems and land use conflicts, especially farmer-herder conflicts. Despite hopes created by increased production of irrigated swamp rice, introduced to be a major cash crop, socio-economic and ecological problems have significantly reduced its chances of sustainable livelihood and poverty alleviation. Our study addresses the socio-economic implications of the Bamendjin dam as a mral development project to support rice production and other agro-pastoral activities and also examines related mral livelihood problems such as displacement of local communities and transformation of the landscape ecology. Stakeholders need to put in place an institutional framework for decision-making and policy implementation in order to realize the desired benefits of the dam and reverse its adverse effects on the UNV and its environs.

Keywords: Bamendjin dam, Upper Noun Valley, poverty, resettlement problems, sustainable development

1. Introduction

Dams are very important in socio-economic development and poverty alleviation worldwide through the generation of hydro-electric power, enhanced navigation systems, flood control, water storage, agro-pastoral production, fishing, tourism and conservation (Sukhan & Sleigh, 2000; Brown et al., 2008; McNally et al., 2009). In 2010, hydropower generated from dams accounted for 20% of the world's electric power supply from over 45,000 large dams globally (International Energy Agency, 2012: 225; Tchouaha, nd). The World Commission on Dams (WCD) define large dams as being over 15 m high with a reservoir of about 3 million m.3 Based on this criteria, about 50% of large dams are located in China and India, and in Africa, South Africa leads in dam construction (Manatunge et al., 2014; BWA, nd).

Cameroon has the second largest hydroelectricity potential in Africa after the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and hydropower provides about 95% of the energy for domestic and industrial production. Unfortunately, most of these industrial activities are limited in urban centers far from mral communities where the dams are constructed. These mral communities benefit very little from the dams, especially concerning electricity, population displacement, ecological changes and flooding of the mral landscape. Following the construction of the Bamendjin dam in the UNV in 1975, the surrounding displaced mral communities were faced with an acute lack of clean drinking water, electricity, roads and healthcare facilities (Lambi, 2001; Kometa & Ebot, 2012). Although recently some villages have gained access to electricity, pipe-borne water and healthcare facilities, the majority of villages still lack electricity and proper healthcare. Most of them largely depend on rain water, springs, streams, rivers and other unclean sources for drinking water. Communities like Mufuo in Bamali, Mbissa Island in Bambalang, and some quarters in Bamunka, Babungo, Bamessing and Baba I, still rely on unclean water sources. The three main hydro-electric power stations of Edea, Songloulou and Lagdo are generated by dammed water from Mape, Mbakaou and Lagdo dams respectfully, and the Edea and Songloulou are reinforced by water from the Bamendjin and Lom-Panger dams during dry periods. …

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