The Senegal river delta used to be a highly dynamic and sprawling area of flood plains, marshes and lakes, with enormous value as a natural resource. That was before dams were built to regulate and limit the river water level. The flood plains largely disappeared and were turned into irrigated agricultural land, or were rendered useless for either agriculture, fishing or birdlife because of silting or invasive, unusable vegetation.
The beauty of flood plains is that they can be reinstated, if the source of the flood water is at least partially restored. That opportunity has now presented itself in the Ndiaël basin, where in 1998 the Association Inter-Villageoise de Ndiaël was set up, uniting 32 villages. This grassroots organisation, with support from Wetlands International and the IUCN, is developing initiatives to create alternative sources of income through the restoration of the river flood waters and associated traditional uses of it.
This project, which also involves the Dutch Government Service for Land and Water Management (DLG) and the ecological advisory agency Altenburg & Wymenga, is allowing that to happen on a much larger scale. The original acacia vegetation is also being restored through replanting. The restoration of floodwaters in the Ndiaël basin is also helping to prevent floods in the city of St Louis. At present, annual floods affect the mainly poorer areas of this city, because the capacity of the former flood plains to absorb the water has decreased dramatically. This project will drastically decrease that effect. The project is being carried out in close cooperation with the National Parks Management and the St Louis authorities.