Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Diawling National Park

Senegal, Mauritania
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Prior to construction of Diama Dam across the Senegal River, land surrounding the Senegal Estuary was flooded with fresh water from late July to late September each year. During the dry season, these delta wetlands would become saltier than the ocean, as their waters were reduced by evaporation.

This yearly cycle was disrupted by the construction of the Diama Dam in 1986 (yellow arrow). Both the Diama Dam, and the Manantali Dam constructed upstream in Mali, were intended to regulate the flow of the Senegal River, generate hydroelectric power, and facilitate development of irrigated agriculture. However, irrigation in the delta has been less successful and less productive than planned; lacking proper drainage systems, the land is becoming waterlogged and saline after just a few years under irrigation.

Drought had already begun to impact the wetlands before construction of the dams in the 1980s (1979 image). Following their construction in the 1980s, fish stocks decreased and wetland vegetation was decimated. In the early 1990s, a restoration project began using controlled flooding of the delta by managed water releases. It has revived the wetlands and restored much of the lost flora and fauna to the area. The 2006 image shows the restored wetlands in and around Diawling National Park.
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