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Improving public information about large hydroelectric dams: Case studies in France and West Africa

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It is becoming more common for public authorities in charge of dam construction and management to inform the population living in the area soon to be submerged by a proposed dam. However, populations living further downstream along a river to be dammed, have often been left to find out by chance, despite the fact that the changes to the river flow regime will have an important impact on their lives, sometimes serious negative impacts. This article makes a comparison between two dams, one at Bort-les-Orgues across the upper Dordogne River in southern France, the other the Bagré Dam over the Nakambé (or White Volta) River in south-eastern Burkina Faso. The article discusses dam construction and operation from the point of view of the concerned populations living in the reservoir and downstream areas.

In 2000, a study was carried out in the Dordogne Valley to ascertain downstream impacts of dam operations and information needs of the population. Suggestions from local river users related mostly to improving public information about predicted and actual flow rates and actual flow in real time along the 300 km course of the Dordogne between the dams and the estuary. Such information should be disseminated as widely as possible through available media, including the Internet, and also displayed visibly in key locations along the length of the river.
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Keywords: Burkina Faso; Community participation; Dam release; Downstream population; Flood release; France; Ghana; Large dams; Public information; Sustainable development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France

Publication date: 01 February 2003

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