Niger River

Niger River

Overview
The Niger River is the principal river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 of western Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, extending about 4180 km (2,597.3 mi). Its drainage basin
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 is 2117700 km² (817,648.5 sq mi) in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands
Guinea Highlands
The Guinea Highlands is a densely forested mountainous plateau extending from the southern Fouta Djallon highlands in southeastern Guinea through to northern Sierra Leone and Liberia, and northwestern Côte d'Ivoire ....

 in southeastern Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

. It runs in a crescent through Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

, on the border with Benin
Benin
Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...

 and then through Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, discharging through a massive delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

, known as the Niger Delta
Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, the delta of the Niger River in Nigeria, is a densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil...

 or the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf....

 in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 and the Congo River
Congo River
The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

 (also known as the Zaïre River).
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Encyclopedia
The Niger River is the principal river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 of western Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, extending about 4180 km (2,597.3 mi). Its drainage basin
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 is 2117700 km² (817,648.5 sq mi) in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands
Guinea Highlands
The Guinea Highlands is a densely forested mountainous plateau extending from the southern Fouta Djallon highlands in southeastern Guinea through to northern Sierra Leone and Liberia, and northwestern Côte d'Ivoire ....

 in southeastern Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

. It runs in a crescent through Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

, on the border with Benin
Benin
Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...

 and then through Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, discharging through a massive delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

, known as the Niger Delta
Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, the delta of the Niger River in Nigeria, is a densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil...

 or the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf....

 in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 and the Congo River
Congo River
The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

 (also known as the Zaïre River). Its main tributary
Tributary
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

 is the Benue River
Benue River
The Benue River is the major tributary of the Niger River. The river is approximately 1,400 km long and is almost entirely navigable during the summer months...

.

Etymology


The Niger is called Jeliba or Joliba "great river" in Manding
Manding languages
The Manding languages are a fairly mutually intelligible group of dialects or languages in West Africa, belonging to the Mande languages. Their best-known members are Bambara, the most widely spoken language in Mali; Mandinka, the main language of Gambia; Maninka or Malinké, a major language of...

, Orimiri or Orimili "great water" in Igbo
Igbo language
Igbo , or Igbo proper, is a native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group primarily located in southeastern Nigeria. There are approximately 20 million speakers that are mostly in Nigeria and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo is a national language of Nigeria. It is written in the Latin...

, Egerew n-Igerewen "river of rivers" in Tuareg
Tuareg languages
Tuareg is a Berber language or family of very closely related languages and dialects spoken by the Tuareg Berbers, in large parts of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso, with a few speakers, the Kinnin, in Chad.- Description :Other Berber languages and Tamashaq are quite mutually...

, Isa Ber "big river" in Songhay
Songhay languages
The Songhay, Songhai, or Songai languages are a group of closely related languages/dialects centered on the middle stretches of the Niger River in the west African states of Mali, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. They have been widely used as a lingua franca in that region ever since the...

, and Oya in Yoruba
Yoruba language
Yorùbá is a Niger–Congo language spoken in West Africa by approximately 20 million speakers. The native tongue of the Yoruba people, it is spoken, among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and in communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas...

. The origin of the name Niger, which originally applied only to the middle reaches of the river, is uncertain. The likeliest possibility is an alteration, by influence of Latin niger "black", of the Tuareg name egerew nigerewen, which is used along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

. As Timbuktu was the southern end of the principal Trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara to reach sub-Saharan Africa. While existing from prehistoric times, the peak of trade extended from the 8th century until the late 16th century.- Increasing desertification and economic incentive :...

 route to the western Mediterranean, it was the source of most European knowledge of the region.

Medieval Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an map
Map
A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....

s applied the name Niger to the middle reaches of the river, in modern Mali, but Quorra (Kworra) to the lower reaches in modern Nigeria, as these were not recognized as being the same river. When European colonial powers began to send ships along the West coast of Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

 was often postulated to be seaward end of the Niger. The Niger Delta
Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, the delta of the Niger River in Nigeria, is a densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil...

, pouring into the Atlantic through mangrove swamps and thousands of distributaries
Distributary
A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. They are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary...

 along more than a hundred miles, was thought to be no more than coastal wetlands. It was only with the 18th century visits of Mungo Park
Mungo Park (explorer)
Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of the African continent. He was credited as being the first Westerner to encounter the Niger River.-Early life:...

, who travelled down the Niger River and visited the great Sahelian empires of his day, that Europeans correctly identified the course of the Niger, and extending the name to its entire course.

The modern nations of Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 and Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

 take their names from the river, marking contesting national claims by colonial powers of the "Upper", "Lower" and "Middle" Niger river basin during the Scramble for Africa
Scramble for Africa
The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa or Partition of Africa was a process of invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period, between 1881 and World War I in 1914...

 at the end of the 19th century.

Geography




The Niger River is a relatively "clear" river, carrying only a tenth as much sediment as the Nile because the Niger's headlands are located in ancient rocks that provide little silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

. Like the Nile, the Niger floods yearly; this begins in September, peaks in November, and finishes by May.

An unusual feature of the river is the Inner Niger Delta, which forms where its gradient
Gradient
In vector calculus, the gradient of a scalar field is a vector field that points in the direction of the greatest rate of increase of the scalar field, and whose magnitude is the greatest rate of change....

 suddenly decreases. The result is a region of braided streams, marsh
Marsh
In geography, a marsh, or morass, is a type of wetland that is subject to frequent or continuous flood. Typically the water is shallow and features grasses, rushes, reeds, typhas, sedges, other herbaceous plants, and moss....

es, and lakes the size of Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

; the seasonal floods make the Delta extremely productive for both fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

.

The river 'loses' nearly two-thirds of its potential flow in the Inner Delta between Ségou
Ségou
Ségou is a city in south-central Mali, lying northeast of Bamako on the River Niger, in the region of Ségou. It was founded by the Bozo people, on a site about from the present town...

 and Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

 due to seepage and evaporation. All the water from the Bani River
Bani River
The Bani River is the principal tributary of the Niger River in Mali. Its length is about 1100 km. The Bani is formed from the confluence of the Baoulé and Bagoé rivers some 160 km east of Bamako and merges with the Niger near Mopti.-Geography:...

, which flows into the Delta at Mopti
Mopti
Mopti is a city at the confluence of the Niger and the Bani in Mali, between Timbuktu and Ségou. The city lies on three islands linked by dykes: the New Town, the Old Town and Medina Coura. As a result it is sometimes known as the "Venice of Mali".-History:The city of Mopti derives its name from...

, does not compensate for the 'losses'. The average 'loss' is estimated at 31 km3/year, but varies considerably between years. The river is then joined by various tributaries, but also loses more water due to evaporation. The quantity of water entering Nigeria measured in Yola was estimated at 25 km3/year before the 1980s and at 13.5 km3/year during the 1980s. The most important tributary of the Niger in Nigeria is the Benue River
Benue River
The Benue River is the major tributary of the Niger River. The river is approximately 1,400 km long and is almost entirely navigable during the summer months...

 which merges with the river at Lokoja in Nigeria. The total volume of tributaries in Nigeria is six times higher than the inflow into Nigeria, with a flow near the mouth of the river standing at 177.0 km3/year before the 1980s and 147.3 km3/year during the 1980s.

The Niger takes one of the most unusual routes of any major river, a boomerang
Boomerang
A boomerang is a flying tool with a curved shape used as a weapon or for sport.-Description:A boomerang is usually thought of as a wooden device, although historically boomerang-like devices have also been made from bones. Modern boomerangs used for sport are often made from carbon fibre-reinforced...

 shape that baffled European geographers for two millennia. Its source is just 240 km (150 mi) inland from the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, but the river runs away from the sea into the Sahara Desert, then takes a sharp right turn near the ancient city of Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

 (Tombouctou) and heads southeast to the Gulf of Guinea.

This strange geography apparently came about because the Niger River is two ancient rivers joined together. The upper Niger, from the source past the trading city of Timbuktu to the bend in the current river, once emptied into a now-gone lake, while the lower Niger started in hills near that lake and flowed south into the Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf....

. As the Sahara dried up in 4000–1000 BC, the two rivers altered their courses and hooked up. This explanation is generally accepted, although some geographers disagree.

The northern part of the river, known as the Niger bend, is an important area because it is the closest major river and source of water to that part of the Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

 desert. This made it the focal point of trade across the western Sahara, and the centre of the Sahelian kingdoms of Mali
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

 and Gao
Gao
Gao is a town in eastern Mali on the River Niger lying ESE of Timbuktu. Situated on the left bank of the river at the junction with the Tilemsi valley, it is the capital of the Gao Region and had a population of 86,663 in 2009....

.

The surrounding Niger River Basin is one of the distinct physiographic sections of the Sudan province, which in turn is part of the larger African massive physiographic division.

European exploration




The origin of the river's name remains unclear. What is clear is that "Niger" was an appellation applied in the Mediterranean world from at least the Classical era, when knowledge of the area by Europeans was slightly better than fable. A careful study of Classical writings on the interior of the Sahara begins with Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

, who mentions two rivers in the desert: the "Gir" and farther south, the "Ni-Gir". The first has been since identified as the Wadi Ghir on the north western edge of the Tuat
Tuat
Tuat is a desert region in central Algeria that contains a string of small oases. In the past, the oases were important for caravans crossing the Sahara desert.-Geography:...

, along the borders of modern Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 and Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. This would likely have been as far as Ptolemy would have had consistent records. The Ni-Ger was likely speculation, although the name stuck as that of a river south of the Mediterranean's "known world". Suetonius
Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 reports Romans traveling to the "Ger", although in reporting any river's name derived from a Berber language, in which "gher" means "watercourse", confusion could easily arise. Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 connected these two rivers as one long watercourse which flowed (via lakes and underground sections) into the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

, a notion which persisted in the Arab and European worlds – and further added the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

 as the "Ger" – until the 19th century. The connection to the Nile River was made not simply because this was then known as the great river of "Aethiopia" (by which all lands south of the desert were called by Classical writers), but because the Nile flooded every summer. In Europe and Western Asia, floods are expected in the Spring, following snow melt. Classical authors explained the summer flood by calculating the time it took for flood waters to move down a river, and calculating how long the Nile must have been for the waters to travel from a mountain range in the spring. The cycle of the Nile is based on tropical rain patterns though, not snow melt, something unknown to the Classical Mediterranean world. Through the descriptions of Leo Africanus
Leo Africanus
Joannes Leo Africanus, was a Moorish diplomat and author who is best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa describing the geography of North Africa.-Biography:Most of what is known about his life is gathered from autobiographical...

 and even Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

 – despite his visit to the river – the myth connecting the Niger to the Nile persisted.

While the true course of the Niger was presumably known to locals, it was a mystery to the outside world until the late 18th century. Ancient Romans such as Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (N.H. 5.10) thought that the river near Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

 was part of the Nile River, a belief also held by Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

, while early European explorers thought that it flowed west and joined the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

.

Many European expeditions to plot the river were unsuccessful. In 1788 the African Association
African Association
The Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa , founded in London on June 9, 1788, was a British club dedicated to the exploration of West Africa, with the mission of discovering the origin and course of the Niger River and the location of Timbuktu, the "lost city" of...

 was formed in England to promote the exploration of Africa in the hopes of locating the Niger, and in June of 1796 the Scottish explorer Mungo Park
Mungo Park (explorer)
Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of the African continent. He was credited as being the first Westerner to encounter the Niger River.-Early life:...

 was the first European to lay eyes on the river. The true course was established in his book Travels in the Interior of Africa, which appeared in 1799.

In the nineteenth century, the river steamer provided entry to the vast interior. The Laird shipyard built such a vessel in 1832. Macgregor Laird
Macgregor Laird
Macgregor Laird was a Scottish merchant pioneer of British trade on the River Niger.Laird was born at Greenock, the younger son of William Laird, founder of the Birkenhead firm of shipbuilders of that name...

 designed an iron paddle steamer
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

, the Alburkah, which was capable of making its own way to West Africa, where the Lairds hoped to trade. Macgregor Laird took personal charge of the expedition. The Alburkah steamed south from Milford Haven
Milford Haven
Milford Haven is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is situated on the north side of the Milford Haven Waterway, a natural harbour used as a port since the Middle Ages. The town was founded in 1790 on the north side of the Waterway, from which it takes its name...

 in July 1832 with 48 on board, reaching the mouth of the Niger three months later, entering history as the first ocean-going iron ship. After making her way up one of the many streams of the Niger delta
Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, the delta of the Niger River in Nigeria, is a densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil...

, the Alburkah progressed upstream on the main river as far as Lokoja
Lokoja
Lokoja is the capital city of Kogi State, in central Nigeria, and is a port on Niger River.-History:Founded by William Balfour Baikie according to European historical records, although there have been indigenous people living in the area for thousands of years...

, at the confluence with the Benue River
Benue River
The Benue River is the major tributary of the Niger River. The river is approximately 1,400 km long and is almost entirely navigable during the summer months...

. The expedition demonstrated that the Niger offered a highway into the continent for ocean vessels, and the performance of the iron steamer was a triumph. When the Alburkah returned to Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 in 1834, only nine of the original crew of 48 were alive, including a much weakened Macgregor Laird.

On October 24, 1946 three Frenchmen, Jean Sauvy, Pierre Ponty and moviemaker Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch was a French filmmaker and anthropologist.He is considered to be one of the founders of the cinéma vérité in France, which shared the aesthetics of the direct cinema spearheaded by Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert and David Maysles...

, former civil servants in the African French colonies
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

, set out to travel the entire length of the river, as no one else seemed to have done it previously. They travelled from the very beginning of the river near Kissidougou
Kissidougou
Kissidougou is a city in southern Guinea. It is the capital of in the Kissidougou Prefecture, and had a population of 66,018 in the 1996 census. Following intensified conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the fall and winter of 2000, many people from the city of Guéckédou fled to...

 in Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

, walking at first till a raft
Raft
A raft is any flat structure for support or transportation over water. It is the most basic of boat design, characterized by the absence of a hull...

 could be used, then changing to various local crafts as the river broadened and changed. Two of them reached the ocean on March 25, 1947, with Pierre Ponty having had to leave the expedition at Niamey
Niamey
-Population:While Niamey's population has grown steadily since independence, the droughts of the early 1970s and 1980s, along with the economic crisis of the early 1980s, have propelled an exodus of rural inhabitants to Niger's largest city...

, somewhat past the halfway mark. They carried a 16mm movie camera
16 mm film
16 mm film refers to a popular, economical gauge of film used for motion pictures and non-theatrical film making. 16 mm refers to the width of the film...

, the resulting footage giving Jean Rouch his first two ethnographic documentaries: "Au pays des mages noirs", and "La chasse à l’hippopotame". A camera was used to illustrate Jean Rouch's subsequent book "Le Niger En Pirogue" (Fernand Nathan, 1954), as well as Jean Sauvy’s “Descente du Niger” (L'Harmattan 2001). A typewriter
Typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

 was brought as well, on which Pierre Ponty produced newspaper articles he mailed out whenever possible.

More recently, Norwegian
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 adventurer Helge Hjelland made another journey through the entire length of the Niger River starting in Guinea-Bissau in 2005. The trip was filmed by the adventurer himself and made into a documentary titled "The Cruellest Journey".

Management and development


The water in the Niger River basin is partially regulated through dams. In Mali the Sélingué Dam
Selingue Dam
The Sélingué Dam is a single purpose hydroelectric dam located in the Koulikoro Region, on the Sankarani River, one of the affluents of the Niger River...

 on the Sankarani River
Sankarani River
The Sankarani River is a tributary of the Niger River Flowing northward from the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea, it crosses into southern Mali, where it joins the Niger approximately 40 km upstream of Bamako...

 is mainly used for hydropower, but also permits irrigation. Two diversion dams, one at Sotuba just downstream of Bamako
Bamako
Bamako is the capital of Mali and its largest city with a population of 1.8 million . Currently, it is estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth fastest in the world...

, and one at Markala
Markala
Markala is a city in Mali's Ségou Region on the Niger River, 35 km downriver from the city of Ségou. Markala is the site of Mali's primary irrigation dam....

, just downstream of Ségou
Ségou
Ségou is a city in south-central Mali, lying northeast of Bamako on the River Niger, in the region of Ségou. It was founded by the Bozo people, on a site about from the present town...

, are used to irrigate about 54,000 hectares. In Nigeria the Kainji Dam and the Jebba dam are used to generate hydropower.

The water resources of the Niger River are under pressure due to increased water abstraction for irrigation and due to impact of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

. The construction of dams for hydropower generation is underway or envisaged in order to alleviate chronic power shortages in the countries of the Niger basin.

The FAO
Fão
Fão is a town in Esposende Municipality in Portugal....

 estimates the irrigation potential of all countries in the Niger river basin at 2.8 million hectares. Only 0.93m hectares (ha) were under irrigation in the late 1980s. The irrigation potential was estimated at 1.68m ha in Nigeria 0.56m ha in Mali, and the actual irrigated area was 0.67m ha and 0.19m ha.

Niger Basin Charta and Investment Plan


In order to further coordinate their efforts, in April 2008 the riparian
Riparian zone
A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Riparian is also the proper nomenclature for one of the fifteen terrestrial biomes of the earth. Plant habitats and communities along the river margins and banks are called riparian vegetation, characterized by...

 countries which form the Niger Basin Authority
Niger Basin Authority
The Niger Basin Authority is an intergovernmental organisation in West Africa aiming to foster co-operation in managing and developing the resources of the basin of the River Niger...

 adopted a Niger Basin Water Charta, a basin-wide 30-year investment plan and a 5-year priority investment plan. The Charta promotes Integrated Water Resources Management
Integrated Water Resources Management
Integrated Water Resources Management has been defined by the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership as "a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land...

, defines procedures for the examination and approval of new projects, provides a framework for the allocation of water resources between sectors, commits to maintain the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and defines mechanisms for the settlement of disputes between countries and for user participation. Investments include the expansion of irrigated agriculture to improve food security, the construction of the Taoussa (or Tossaye) dam in Mali and the Kandadji Dam
Kandadji dam
The Kandadji dam when completed, will be a large multipurpose dam on the Niger River. The site is situated near the small town of Kandadji, Tillabéri Department, Tillabéri Region, Niger, 180 km northwest of the capital Niamey. Construction of the dam was begun in August 2008...

 in Niger (the latter has been under construction since August 2008), as well as the rehabilitation of the Kainji dam
Kainji Dam
Kainji Dam is a dam across the Niger River in western Nigeria. Construction of the dam began in 1964 and was completed in 1968. The total cost was estimated at $209 million, with one-quarter of this amount used to resettle people displaced by the construction of the dam and its reservoir,...

 and Jebba dam
Jebba Power Station
The Jebba Power Station is a hydroelectric power plant of the Niger River in Nigeria. It has a power generating capacity of 540 MW enough to power over 364,000 homes...

 in Nigeria.

Funding


Most of the investments are funded or are expected to be funded through aid. For example, the Kandadji Dam is financed by the Islamic Development Bank
Islamic Development Bank
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral development financing institution located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was founded by the first conference of Finance Ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference , convened 23 Dhu'l Qa'dah 1393 AH.The bank officially began its activities on...

, the African Development Bank
African Development Bank
The African Development Bank Group is a development bank established in 1964 with the intention of promoting economic and social development in Africa...

 and the OPEC
OPEC
OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings...

 Development Fund. The World Bank approved a US$500 million soft loan in July 2007 to finance projects in the basin over a 12-year period. Funding will be awarded in two phases. The initial $185 million credit will go to Nigeria, Guinea, Benin, Mali and Niger. The second, $315 million investment, is slated for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad and Ivory Coast. Besides financing the rehabilitation of dams in Nigeria, the loan will also fund the "sustainable management of selected degraded ecosystems and rehabilitation of small water infrastructure" and capacity building.

River transport and dredging


In September 2009, the Nigerian government commenced a 36 billion naira
Nigerian naira
The naira is the currency of Nigeria. It is subdivided into 100 kobo.The Central Bank of Nigeria is the sole issuer of legal tender money throughout the Federation. It controls the volume of money supply in the economy in order to ensure monetary and price stability...

 dredging of the Niger River from Baro
Baro
Baro is a city in central Nigeria.- Transport :It is located approximately 400 miles up the Niger River at the limit of river navigation, subject to dredging. It is also the terminus of a railway branchline connected to the Nigerian railway system.- External links :*...

 to Warri, a move which will see silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 removed from several hundred miles. The dredging is intended to make it easier for goods to be transported to isolated settlements located deep within from the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. Estimated to be completed within six to eight months, it had first been proposed and then postponed for 43 years previously by the then government. Speaking in Lokoja
Lokoja
Lokoja is the capital city of Kogi State, in central Nigeria, and is a port on Niger River.-History:Founded by William Balfour Baikie according to European historical records, although there have been indigenous people living in the area for thousands of years...

, Nigerian President
President of Nigeria
The President of Nigeria is the Head of State and head of the national executive. Officially styled President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The current President of Nigeria is Goodluck Jonathan.-History:On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained...

 Umaru Yar'Adua stated that the project would lead to "all-year-round navigability" on the River Niger and that he hoped that, by 2020, Nigeria would have become one of the twenty most industrialised nations in the world. Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, the Nigerian Minister of Transport, said his ministry would work to make certain the project would be completed within its designated timeframe. Some activists have, however, opposed the project in the past, claiming it may have negative effects on waterside villagers.

In late March 2010 the dredging project was 50% complete.

External links



International law and the River Niger


Pictures