The thematic scope of the Observatory relates to the process of IWRM. For each theme background information is given, as well as, and as far as available, monitoring data of relevant indicators. In short, the following themes are presented:
- Upper Niger: Short intro on the topography and geographical scope (study area) and brief introduction in the West African context.
- Weather and climate: Easy access to information on recent and historic rainfall in West Africa and the Upper Niger Basin in particular, as well background information on rainfall patterns in the Sahel.
- Hydrology: Outline of the hydrological regime and infrastructure, the flooding of the Inner Niger Delta and relevant data on water quantity. Monitoring data on groundwater and water quality are hardly available, and therefore not included (yet).
- Ecosystems and biodiversity: Succinct description of the ecosystems, habitats and vulnerable species. For the Inner Niger Delta available monitoring data (counts, spatial data) are presented on breeding birds, water birds and large mammals. The summarised information is used to present a preliminary map of ecological hotspots.
- Socio-economic and national resources: Aggregation of available information on socio-economic indicators like energy production and the production of natural resources: livestock, fisheries and cereals (mostly rice). Under this theme also ecosystem services are presented.
Maps and data
The objective of the Observatory is to provide online quantitative and spatial information and data on the relevant parameters of IWRM. This information is largely based on long-term monitoring programs of national and regional institutes (meteorology, hydrology, socio-economic data) and partly based on remote sensing data of satellites. Most data is presented in interactive graphs and diagrams. Sources are mentioned in the text or in the explanation of the tables. Relevant information sources are listed at the end of texts and – if available – can be downloaded at the Download Section.
Maps with spatial data are combined in viewers, which are incorporated as small windows in the themes; the viewers can be displayed full size if chosen. With the aid of the map gallery (square icon at the right side) one can choose the background map for the viewer, all based on open source maps: topographical maps, satellite background or an elevation map.
The heart of the Observatory will be formed by long-term monitoring data of a set of relevant indicators. At present there is not yet an overarching monitoring program for IWRM. There are, however, several relevant monitoring activities and historic datasets, which are highly relevant to the process of IWRM. Since the Observatory aggregates existing and relevant monitoring activities by institutes from Mali and Guinea, the Observatory can be seen as a first step towards such a coherent and coordinated monitoring strategy. In short, monitoring concerns the systematic and recurrent collection (measurement) of information to
- show and evaluate relevant developments or trends,
- to measure to what extent objectives have been reached, and
- to signal in an early stage important changes in the system’s indicators.
Monitoring of relevant indicators is informative to the management, and by making this information accessible through the Observatory in a transparent way, this information also becomes available for the entire community interested in IWRM. Monitoring is not a goal in itself but a means to collect telling information on the processes and systems being followed.
Systematic long-term monitoring requires a strong institutional organisation, dedication and a thorough expertise and knowledge. In this context, the long-term datasets on water levels and river discharge in the Niger Basin in Mali, collected by DNH, provide a wealth of information.
Indicators are used to communicate information to the public, agencies and policy makers about, in this case, the hydrological system, management of water resources, ecosystems and the production of natural resources. Indicators can help to describe the relevant processes in terms that can be used by non-scientists to make management decisions. For example, the number of breeding birds or the presence of hippopotamus might be used as an indicator for biodiversity or the ecosystem‘s health. Using indicators is also a pragmatic approach to make long-term monitoring feasible.
The selection of indicators requires a thorough knowledge of the hydrological regime and ecosystems as well as the relationship with the management of water resources and the impact of socio-economic development (impact chain). Concrete and ‘smart’ defined IWRM-goals are needed to define measurable indicators which are sensitive and reliable enough to act as sensors for IWRM in the Observatory. To do this, a monitoring strategy and indicator selection is prepared in 2017-2019.
At present Observatory, a pragmatic approach is chosen. In the current developmental situation no goals have been formulated (yet) for IWRM. This means indicators cannot (yet) be linked to concrete policy goals, rather than the abstract formulation that IWRM is aspired for. Indicators for that reason have been chosen on the basis of stakeholder meetings in combination with solid information on the hydrological regime, socio-economic development and the impact chain of hydrological interventions on the natural resources and ecosystem.
Simplified impact chain in the Upper Niger Basin and Inner Niger Delta.