World Water Day 2014: AfDB’s support to avoid waste and allow for the reuse of water
On March 22, World Water Day 2014, the African Development Bank celebrates the link between water and energy – the role water plays in generating electricity and the role of energy in the development of the continent.
African countries face many challenges in their quest to improve the welfare of their populations, one of which is the lack of access to affordable and reliable energy.
The African continent has the lowest electrification rate of all regions. It is estimated that only 43 per cent of the population has access to electricity, compared with 77 per cent in the developing world. In Sub-Saharan Africa the ratio is much lower, at 32 per cent and only 18 per cent in rural areas. Moreover, even when modern energy is available, it is expensive and unreliable. The lack of access to modern energy services severely impedes social and economic development, undermines competitiveness and access to regional and global markets for African producers. It is critical and urgent to address the continent’s energy needs in order to unlock its development potential.
Africa is endowed with important energy resources, including important exploitable hydropower capacity, yet only about eight per cent of its hydropower potential has been harnessed. Hydropower has many advantages: it is readily available and produces cleaner electricity than other traditional resources such as coal and oil; it is also highly versatile and can be used to meet national electricity grid requirements, rural electrification and industrial power needs. Eastern, southern, central and parts of western Africa have many permanent rivers providing excellent opportunities for hydropower development.
The African Development Bank has financed several hydropower projects such as the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project, which provides energy to Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi; and the Inga hydropower plant on the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Bank has also invested in clean energy in the Comoros Energy Sector Support Project and spearheaded a pioneering energy project to bring electricity to Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea which involves various feasibility studies on hydropower plants
The African Water Facility, a multilateral fund administered by the African Development Bank, supports the optimization of energy production, especially via multi-purpose dams projects, which allow for the reuse of water so that none is wasted and every drop is used to bring multiple benefits. Multi-purpose dams help reuse water to increase water, energy and food security, and to spur economic growth, they are also an excellent way to build resilience to climate change. Such projects are especially important in rural areas, which are home to the most underserved communities.
Some examples of AWF multi-purpose dam projects include:
The AWF is supporting the Governments of Tanzania and Malawi through a €4-million grant for the development of the Songwe River Basin. The project should lead to the construction of multi-purpose dams with a hydropower component for the production of 340 MW. Other benefits include improving irrigation capacity for agriculture, stabilization of the river, controlling floods, fisheries development, and improved access to water supply. The project is expected to benefit the entire basin population.
The AWF is providing support to the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO), the technical arm of the Nile Basin Initiative, through a €2-million grant for a development study that will support investments into the Baro-Akobo-Sobat development program. The region holds tremendous potential for the cooperative development of water resources, if enhanced, promises significant socio-economic impacts that can reduce poverty. The multi-purpose water resources projects envisaged under the overarching BAS program include: water supply and sanitation, hydropower development, irrigation, flood control, drought management, navigation, fisheries, watershed management and tourism.
The AWF has assisted the Water Resources Commission (WRC) of Ghana through a €1.8-million grant to finance the reoptimization and reoperation study of the Akosombo and Kpong dams. The purpose of the project is to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of a technique for reoptimizing the operations of the Akosombo and Kpong hydropower dams. The study will pave the way for a pioneering initiative: the dams will be the first to reintroduce seasonal flooding while enhancing electricity output and reliability. Bringing seasonal flooding back to the communities living alongside the river will rebuild fisheries, agricultural production, wetland ecosystems and recover lost livelihoods in the region.