Source: Big Data Analytics
Source: Big Data Analytics
Source: Big Data Analytics
Sep 3, 2015
Researchers at Iowa State have been awarded nearly $2 million for research on the integrated pyrolysis of biochar systems.
Biochar is a product used on soils to return nutrients to the soil, which are removed when biomass is harvested for bioenrgy and aid in sequestering carbon that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide as plants decompose.
The grant, provided by the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University, will provide funding for three years.
“Biochar is one of three co-products produced when biomass feedstocks such as corn stocks and cobs are heated without oxygen, a process known as pyrolysis,” said David Laird, professor of agronomy and chief researcher for the project.
The other two products produced are bio oil and syngas, both of which can be used as fuel or to produce other products, Laird said.
Biochar has been a theoretical probability for Laird since the 1990s, but in 2005 the probability became a reality.
“In 2005 we realized there was a possible synergism between biochar and bioenergy,” Laird said.
When the corn stocks and cobs are heated along with different feedstocks, such as corn stover, food waste or wood, different types of biochar will be produced. Combine the different feedstocks with different heating temperatures and you can get billions of different types of biochar, Laird said.
“As a general rule, the higher the temp [of the pyrolysis process used to produce the biochar] the more stable the biochar is in soils,” Laird said.
The more stable the biochar is the longer it can stay in the soil. Generally, the biochar will stay in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years, Laird said.
A major product of the research will be a biochar model which will be incorporated into the Agricultural Production System sIMulator by Sotirios Archontoulis, assistant professor of agronomy, and Fernando Miguez, assistant professor of agronomy. The model will allow the researchers to simulate the impact on crop yields and the environment when they place a certain type of biochar into different soil types. The model also allows the researchers to test the biochar in different climates, Laird said.
Economists can use the results from the simulator model to find the best location to start a biochar industry.
“The place where it would make the most sense to put the industry would be here in the corn belt,” said Dermot Hayes, professor of economics.
The biochar has proven to have bigger impacts on poor soil, such as soil destroyed by a tornado, than higher quality soils.
“On every farm, there are parts where you lose money,” Hayes said. “The char can improve the quality [of the soil] for a long period of time.”
Hayes predicts farmers could see the value of their farm improve by 10 to 15 percent when soil quality increased using biochar.
When all of the research is complete, Laird and his team will look into the possible benefits and setbacks that could come from the industry. They will look at how big the climate change impact could be, and where it makes the most economic and environmental sense to put the first plant.
“This is just one piece of a larger research agenda,” Laird said.
This article was published online at Iowa State Daily and retrieved on 09/15/2015 and posted here for information and educational purposes only.
By Lydia Wamala; 10 Jul 2015 Source(s):World Food Programme (WFP)
Nayese Village, Karamoja – As Regina Nakwang, Veronica Locham, Lina Sagal and Cecilia Kapel look down at the completed sand dam, their pride is clear to see.
“For now it may look like just a wall and dormant water, but come back in the dry season and you will see,” Regina said with a knowing smile. “It will just be a wall and sand, which is currently accumulating under the water. The water will have disappeared into the sand, which is able to retain it for months through the dry season for us and our animals.”
The families in the community are very happy to see that a new source of water has been created for their animals, which are a major source of livelihood. Some 138 households, nearly 700 people, worked together to construct the dam and will benefit from it.
“The water has been flowing away each rainy season, leaving behind a dry environment for months,” explained Lina. “But now we will be able to stop and store the water and then dig it out when we need it in the dry season.”
Requesting a dam
Veronica and Cecilia explained that the community harvested water in the past and knew the retention potential of the Nayese area. So, when WFP asked what type of community assets it could help them build, they requested a traditional dam. Knowing that traditional dams did not typically hold water beyond two months after the rainy season, WFP suggested an innovation which the community had never heard of, a sand dam. The community agreed.
“On our own we could not do it. We did not have the skills or knowledge to build such advanced infrastructure; neither did we have the means to buy the cement and tools,” said Cecilia.
Karamoja, Uganda’s only semi-arid region, suffers from inter-connected challenges ranging from chronic food shortages, acute and chronic malnutrition and poor access to social services. Frequent droughts and erratic rains, caused by the impact of climate change, have resulted in the inability of soil to retain water.
The Nayese sand dam is one of many water harvesting and catchment projects that WFP is supporting amongst communities in four districts of Karamoja to help build their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Sustainability is embedded into projects because the communities themselves help identify the problems to be tackled and develop a sense of ownership as they work to implement them. The involvement of local leaders also ensures the projects complement the district development plans.
WFP targets moderately food insecure households that have at least one member who is able to work. WFP provides food or cash support to every household whose members voluntarily participate in building the community assets. The food enables the households to overcome hunger in the short run, during the lean season. Extremely food insecure households – those headed by children or elderly and chronically ill persons – meanwhile benefit from unconditional food assistance.
Before the sand dam is put to use, the women’s community has started to plant vegetables, taking advantage of the increased moisture of the surrounding ground. The women are already scooping the fringes of dam, testing and proving that the new technology will provide even clean water, which they can boil and use at home. There is a plan to build a cattle trough nearby, which will be used to feed animals.
Importance of animals
Gilbert Buzu, who heads WFP’s programme in Kotido district says, “Animals are very important in Karamoja as not only do they provide income but milk and blood that boosts children’s nutrition. But, the locals have been taking their animals to far away land to find water in the rainy season. WFP’s water harvesting technologies are helping to keep the animals closer to home.”
Gilbert says the sand dam technology has worked elsewhere in other dry areas in Karamoja and in Kenya and will work in Nayese and at other new sites planned this year. He says while communities traditionally drew water from sand in the seasonal river beds after the rain is gone, the WFP-sponsored sand dams guarantee higher volumes of sand, water and a way out of vulnerability.
This article was published online by the World Food Programme (WFP) and retrieved on 09/15/2015 and posted here for information and educational purposes only.
SEPT. 9, 2015
An innovative business model combining solar power and cellphones is electrifying parts of rural Africa that are far from the grid.
It’s called M-KOPA. The “M” stands for “mobile,” and “kopa” means “to borrow.” The company’s customers make an initial deposit, roughly $30, toward a solar panel, a few ceiling lights, and charging outlets for cellphones — a system that would cost about $200. Then they pay the balance owed in installments through a widely used mobile banking service, based on how much energy they use. The solar units are cheaper and cleaner than kerosene, the typical lighting source, and once they’re fully paid for after about a year the electricity is completely free. More than 200,000 homes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda use M-KOPA’s solar systems.
Creative, bottom-up solutions like M-KOPA are emerging across Africa and the developing world. Scaling them, and quickly, is the challenge. Around 1.3 billion people worldwide still lack access to electricity, including two out of three sub-Saharan Africans. An enormous divide exists between the global rich and the global poor, from energy access and technology to wealth and infrastructure. But the divide is not immutable, and momentum for solutions to bridge it are emerging from all over the world.
Later this month, the United Nations will aim to take another important step to close that gap by agreeing on Sustainable Development Goals, including goals on ending extreme poverty and ensuring adequate access to energy. It is important that the word “sustainable” has been given a prominent place in the agenda, because while many global trends are going in the right direction, one is certainly not: the climate. Without acting on climate change, we risk undermining the development gains that we have achieved so far and widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The economic growth we have seen to date will be unsustainable in the face of increasing climate disasters.
Climate change hits the poorest people the hardest. The poor are more likely than the rich to live in places vulnerable to climate-related weather events and more frequently suffer from diseases that can be exacerbated by climate change. The World Health Organization predicted last year that in 2030 climate change will lead to 48,000 additional deaths due to diarrhea, 60,000 from malaria, and 95,000 from childhood undernutrition. The vast majority of these will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
It is clear that we cannot tackle poverty successfully without also tackling climate change. That’s why enterprises like M-KOPA are so important: They help to bridge the divide between the global rich and global poor in a low-carbon way. Small-scale solar is only a start. Africa attracted $8 billion of investment in renewables last year, and the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that its potential for wind and solar power amounts to more than 1.5 trillion gigawatt hours per year. There’s plenty of room for both bottom-up innovation and top-down support for green energy.
In addition to energy access, better land use can make a real difference as well. For example, farmers in Niger are using new agroforestry techniques to produce more grain than ever before. By interplanting trees on cropland and allowing extra shrubs to grow, the farmers restore degraded land, lower greenhouse gas emissions and increase agricultural productivity. And they are directly reaping economic benefits, with gross annual incomes going up for over a million households by an average of $1,000, more than doubling real incomes.
Today this is in Niger; tomorrow, if this were global, restoring just 12 percent of degraded lands to production could raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion per year and feed another 200 million people.
Investing in sustainable infrastructure in areas like energy, land use and cities is a no-brainer. But the biggest obstacle is coming up with the initial financing for these investments, even though we know that they will pay for themselves in the long run.
Much of the financing needs can be met through more effective mobilization of private investment. For example, a renewable energy procurement program in South Africa has mobilized $14 billion in domestic and international private financing for sustainable infrastructure. When the market fails in providing private finance, development banks can step in by providing technical assistance and guarantees. Better mobilization of countries’ own domestic resources is also critically important.
Low-carbon investment is gathering momentum around the world, and the founders of M-KOPA aren’t the only ones being creative. Investors are increasingly turning to new, more efficient forms of finance. “Green bonds” that support low-carbon and climate resilient infrastructure more than tripled in 2014 to reach $37 billion.
The global divide between the rich and the poor is far from closed. But with smarter anti-poverty and energy-access measures and a focus on sustainable finance, the future for Africa and the rest of the developing world can be bright, in more ways than one.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a former finance minister of Nigeria and was a managing director at the World Bank from 2007 to 2011.
This article was initially published online on New York Times Opinion Page and was retrieved on 09/10/2015 and posted for educational and information purposes only.
Tyton Bio’s tobacco project
From time to time, it’s been said in flowery moments of commercial rapture that such-and-such technology or such-and-such company or is a “pillar of our American democracy”. In the case of the tobacco leaf, it’s meant literally.
When next you take a tour of the US Capitol and visit the small rotunda of the Old Senate Chamber, look up at the pillars. They’re capped with masonry carved in the shape of tobacco leaves and flowers.
It was a tribute by Capitol Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe to the native American plant which did so much to power the young nation’s economy as its first cash crop. It was financial source of all the leisure time that planters Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison had to devote to the development of the United States, and had a nasty intersection in its early days with the history of American slavery.
If tobacco’s reputation has fallen into disrepute on soil sustainability and smoking application grounds (and George Washington abandoned the crop in his lifetime, switching over to grain production), it’s being rehabilitated by a global resurgence of interest in the North American native. And therein lies our tale today.
In France and America, we reported overnight that Deinove and Tyton BioEnergy Systems have entered into a technological and commercial partnership. The main goal of the partnership is to combine Tyton’s energy tobacco feedstock, process and production infrastructure with Deinove’s Deino-based fermentation solutions in order to produce green chemical compounds of high commercial value. Tyton’s energy tobacco technology combines advancements in plant sciences, agronomics, and processing to produce cost-competitive sugars, oils, proteins and other green chemicals at high profits.
“From a scientific perspective, Deinove’s technology platform represents a crucial step forward in industrial fermentation. The Deinococci bacteria can assimilate partially hydrolyzed sugar chains at high temperature to produce an attractive portfolio of renewable chemicals in a cost-effective way. Together with Tyton’s energy tobacco sugars, our partnership is a game changer” added Dr. Iulian Bobe, CTO of Tyton. More on that story here.
We also reported in June 2015 that Smithfield Foods’ Hog Production Division (Murphy-Brown, LLC), and Tyton BioEnergy Systems put together a research partnership to establish field trials with non-smoking tobacco using hog manure as fertilizer. In addition, the companies are pursuing the development of ethanol products using tobacco as raw material rather than corn. Smithfield and Tyton said they will develop applications for Tyton’s tobacco-based biochar and activated carbon products, which can be used for a wide-range of filtration, land remediation, and soil amendment purposes.
What’s Tyton BioEnergy Systems up to, on a larger front? As we reported in January 2015, they’re manipulating the DNA of standard tobacco to boost its sugar and oil content, allowing the plant to be used as feedstock for both ethanol as well as biodiesel. The company is collaborating with local farmers on test plots to monitor the various production and harvesting methods that will lead to improved use of the crop for biofuels.
You can learn a heck more about Tyton via this 8-Slide Guide, here.
The most important development in tobacco applications around the world right now is Project Solaris in South Africa, which earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification for the production of the energy rich tobacco crop “Solaris” in the Limpopo region of South Africa.
In December 2014, Boeing and SAA, along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem officially launched Project Solaris, their collaborative effort to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain with a nicotine-free tobacco plant called Solaris. In Limpopo province, company representatives and industry stakeholders visited commercial and community farms where 123 acres (50 hectares) of Solaris have been planted. Oil from the plant’s seeds may be converted into bio-jet fuel as early as late 2015, with a test flight by SAA as soon as practicable.
There’s nothing new about tobacco; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among its pioneering developers and planters — and the drive for sustainable aviation fuels has been “game on” for some time. It comes down to three factors.
1. Tobacco, the researchers’s friend. Turns out that tobacco is a relatively easily-modified plant, as genetic engineering goes; plus, it is widely grown and can be harvested several times a year.
2. A grower base eager for new apps. If ever there was an established cash crop that needed a new set of platform applications, it would have to be tobacco, which has been long associated with cigarette smoking and the resultant controversy over public health. In fact, some of the research funding that started the “new Tobacco” has come from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, which for example granted $5M for biofuels R&D back in 2011 to a new Sustainable Energy Technology Center at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research which will develop better biofuels.
The facility, funded via the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, includes 25,000 square feet of research laboratories, research support laboratories, graduate student research spaces and faculty offices.
3. It’s time to improve oilseed production. With demand rising for oilseeds from almost every demand sector (food, fuels, personal care and more), researchers are keying in on how plants use carbon., and maximizing oil storage in perennial plants and woody biomass.Oil plants are notoriously busy using (or failing to use) carbon in ways other than we would like, do not use light as efficiently as we would like, and devote energy to oil production less efficiently than we would like. The nerve.
In 2011, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), announced 10 awards for $36 million for biofuels-related projects, via the Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) project. If successful, the project managers noted, PETRO could create biofuels from domestic sources such as tobacco and pine trees for half their current cost, making them cost-competitive with fuels from oil. ARPA-E sets moonshot goals and, in this case, had transformative yields for terrestrial plant oils in mind of up to 4,000 gallons per acre
The item that received the most attention at the time was a $4.9M project at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab entitled “Developing Tobacco as a Platform for Foliar Synthesis of High-Density Liquid Biofuels,” led by Christer Jansson. His team aimed to develop tobacco plants with leaves that would contain hydrocarbon fuel molecules. Their ultimate goal was a plant in which between 20 and 30 percent of its dry weight is hydrocarbon.
As we known from companies like REG Life Sciences, select microorganisms have the capability to produce alkanes, which are drop-in fuel hydrocarbons. In this project, the team developed synthetic, tobacco-friendly versions of these genes, inserted them into tobacco plants, and then refined the metabolic pathways as they spot any bottlenecks, with a goal of as much as 1,000 gallons of drop-in, hydrocarbon fuels. In this project, Jansson started with cyanobacteria genes that encode for enzymes which produce alkane, a type of hydrocarbon, making synthetic versions of these genes that are suited for expression in tobacco.
Why cyanobacteria? Ordinary tobacco “fills up” with CO2 very quickly. By contrast, cyanobacteria are very efficient at grabbing carbonate from the surrounding water and transporting it into the cell. The genes were introduced into tobacco plants grown by UC Berkeley scientist Peggy Lemaux. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of the leaves by UC Berkeley chemist David Wemmer enabled the scientists to spot any carbon bottlenecks in the plant and refine their metabolic engineering. In addition, Cheryl Kerfeld, a scientist at DOE’s Joint Genome Institute, searched the genomes of hundreds of cyanobacteria species for other alkane-producing genes that could also prove useful.
In a parallel project, UC Berkeley scientists Tasios Melis and Kris Niyogi worked to enhance tobacco’s use of light during photosynthesis, manipulating the plant’s light-harvesting mechanisms.
“We want to bypass downstream processes like fermentation and produce fuels directly in the crop,” said Jansson at the time. “After the biomass is crushed, we could extract the hydrocarbon molecules, and crack them into shorter molecules, creating gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.” The team said that yields of as much as 1,000 gallons of hydrocarbon oil per acre were possible.
In the case of Deinove and Tyton, the team is looking beyond tobacco oils to the production of sugars by the plant. So it was big news along these lines when in October 2013, a researcher at the Public University of Navarra genetically modified tobacco to produce 700% as much starch and 500% as much fermentable sugars in the leaves for use in biofuel production. The project was the first to use tobacco proteins as biological tools.
And tobacco found its way into research on enzymes to break down forest materials. In April 2015, we reported that researchers from Bioforsk, the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, will genetically modify tobacco plants to produce enzymes that can break down biomass from forest raw materials. “This may lead to a more effective, economic and sustainable production of biofuels. In the first phase of the project researchers from Bioforsk, NFLI (Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute), and NMBU (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) will search for good enzyme candidates,” we wrote at the time. Borregaard will test the enzymes when they are ready.
Australia’s CSIRO and its Tobacco oil project: The Digest’s 2015 8-Slide Guide
By summer 2015, momentum had shifted down under, where CSIRO was reporting on huge gains in tobacco oil production. If Berkeley Lab had set goals in terms of 20-30 percent oil content, CSIRO was reporting growing plants with 25% oil content. (Keep in kind, the Berkeley project was specifically aiming at hydrocarbon fuel oils, not just any-old triglyceride oil that would need further downstream processing, e.g. hydrotreatment).
Nevertheless, CSIRO are reporting that “Leaf oil composition can be engineered for specific purposes (food, nutritional, industrial FA, fuel)” which “enables intensification of oil production for sustainability.” Key takeaway? “Lowers plant oil feedstock cost, potentially enabling price-competitive biodiesel” and “tobacco can greatly expand global capacity for renewable oil production.”
You can see our 8-Slide Guide to their achievements, here.
Tobacco is well on its way to becoming a significant platform crop for the advanced bioeconomy. In time, we might not even remember its role in the public health controversy surrounding the practice of smoking.
Category: Top Stories
This article was initially published online and in print (pfd) form at BioFuelsDigest and retrieved on 09/10/2015 for educational and informational purposes only.
Dana Klug, PhD’18, a researcher in Michael Pollastri’s Laboratory for Neglected Disease Drug Discovery. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
August 31, 2015
When Northeastern graduate student Dana Kluglearned, in mid-July, that she had won a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the American Chemical Society Division of Medicinal Chemistry, she did what researchers in labs around the world do on such occasions.
She hit “high elbows” with her advisor, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology Michael Pollastri, who heads Northeastern’s Laboratory for Neglected Disease Drug Discovery.
“You have gloves on,” Klug explains, laughing, “so you bump elbows instead of doing a high five.”
In Klug’s case, those gloved hands had spent countless hours manipulating chemical compounds—small molecules that Pollastri’s lab had identified as possible drug candidates to treat Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, a deadly disease transmitted by tsetse flies that affects tens of thousands of people in rural Africa annually.
The $26,000 fellowship, given to graduate students in their third or fourth year of study, will enable Klug to continue designing and synthesizing variations of 16 of those compounds in the coming year in an effort to find the ones most effective at killing the parasite that causes the disease.
“This is a national award and is really competitive,” says Pollastri, who with his colleagues in 2014 reported identifying 797 compounds as “starting points” for discovering new drugs for sleeping sickness after screening more than 42,000 compounds supplied by collaborator GlaxoSmithKline, the global healthcare company.
Klug’s 16 compounds, broken into two groups with similar chemical structures, come from those 797. “Students in the top medicinal chemistry research groups in the country apply to this program, and only three received the award this year,” says Pollastri. “It’s a strong statement about Dana’s promise as a future leader in the field.”
Klug’s interest in neglected tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness was sparked as an undergraduate at DePaul University, in Chicago, where she majored in chemistry and minored in biology and sociology, taking courses in global health. Her undergraduate research advisor, associate professor Caitlin Karver, had been a postdoctoral fellow in Pollastri’s lab and recommended that she apply to Northeastern for her doctoral studies. “How’s that for a small world?” says Pollastri.
Upon acceptance into Northeastern’s chemistry Ph.D. program, Klug received a College of Science Distinguished Graduate Fellowship, which allowed her to jump directly into research with Pollastri’s team in October 2013. She did so with alacrity: “She’s one of those students to whom you explain something once or just vaguely and she takes that and runs with it independently,” says Pollastri.
In designing her compounds, Klug is like a chef crafting a gourmet dish, adding an atom of, say, hydrogen here, removing an atom of nitrogen there, or shifting an element left to right to transform the chemical structure of the individual molecule. “Synthesis is all about making and breaking bonds between elements,” she says. “Each reaction brings about a specific structural transformation that results in a new compound, which is then purified and used as the starting material for the next reaction in the synthesis.”
Klug sends each iteration off to the Spanish National Research Council, in Granada, Spain, where collaborator Miguel Navarro and the GlaxoSmithKline team mix it with both the sleeping-sickness parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, and human cells to test for potency in the first case and toxicity in the second.
What happens in those Petri dishes helps determine Klug’s next step. The 797 compounds Pollastri’s lab initially selected as “hits” against T. brucei work by inhibiting proteins called kinases, which are found in both humans and parasites. The job of kinases is to add phosphate groups—structures of oxygen and phosporous—to other proteins inside cells, spurring those proteins to facilitate cell growth and division. “If you inhibit human kinases, you can stop cell growth,” says Klug. “We believe that same inhibitory action occurs in parasites, killing them or blocking their ability to reproduce.”
The results in Spain provide clues for new variations.
Knocking out T. brucei is a tall order, but one to which Klug is committed. “The original hits have a pretty good profile so I’m working on scaling up one of them to possibly test in an animal model,” she says. “But I also have many plans for a lot of different compound variations that I want to make.”
But a surge in building big dams is also leading to poor people being displaced and losing rights to water — something that needs to be addressed if more projects go ahead, community leaders and researchers say.
“When you build a mega dam your land acquisition and inundation creates a great level of displacement. This is a disastrous plan and not true development,” says Rajendra Singh, an Indian water activist and winner of this year’s Stockholm Water Prize for his efforts in protecting rivers and boosting rainwater harvesting.
Singh, speaking at World Water Week in Stockholm two weeks ago, said building small-scale dams, rather than huge ones, may be a more effective way to protect poor people, while increasing access to clean power.
“Build your dam on the river, just before the bend, and communities can still use the free flow of water,” he said, drawing a serpentine line on a piece of paper. “You can still produce energy, though on a smaller scale, and you can still ensure people’s rights to use the water.”
About 160 countries worldwide use hydropower technology for electricity generation, according to Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. The power produced amounts to just under 16% of the world’s total electricity generation, he says.
In more than 50 countries, hydropower plants provide at least half of the total electricity supply. An increase in this number, Amin says, is crucial if the world wants to shift to a sustainable society. That is particularly true in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where much of the world’s population growth is expected to occur by 2050.
Building small-scale hydropower facilities can make sense, Amin says — but he warns they may not be up to meeting the coming demand.
“There is a strong business case for small hydro projects, but we are also facing a situation where the energy demand in Africa is set to triple and in Asia Pacific it will double by 2050. So we have to explore all possibilities.
“If we look at the developing countries with large power needs, large water needs, growing populations, we have to find power and water sources that can support this growth in the future. It’s very difficult to forgo opportunities to develop clean power (and) irrigation because of some sceptics.”
But research in West Africa by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development, a research and policy group, suggests that building large-scale dams is leading to widespread displacement of people there.
Seven dams in West Africa, six of them in the Niger basin, have led to about 237,000 people losing their homes or land, researchers found. Many have had difficulty finding new ways to make a living.
In Burkina Faso, a planned tomato processing plant and fish stocking facility, promised to help provide new jobs, have yet to be built, and in Senegal and Burkina Faso, over-fishing in dam reservoirs by displaced families has led to conflict among fishermen, one study found.
Nouradine Zackaria Toure, the chief of a dam-affected village in the Gao region of Mali, says nine countries in West Africa today have 150 dams, with 40 more planned in the region. That has led to displacement, a lack of irrigated land, forced migration and conflicts over scarce food and water, he says.
Dams in West Africa, though built with the best of intentions, are failing to benefit the poorest of the communities, says Toure.
In particular, the energy and the water produced by the dams is reaching others, but not those displaced by the projects, says Toure, who also heads a network of riverside communities in the Niger Basin, the Regional Coordination Group of Users of the Niger Basin. He says the size of dams is less important than ensuring local communities share in their benefits, including access to the energy they produce and sufficient water to irrigate their fields. Dam-displaced communities must also have a genuine voice in deciding what should happen to them.
“We don’t care about the size. We just want our rights over land and water and energy to be respected,” Toure says.
Singh says the problem is that many dams and hydropower projects are designed to meet a country or region’s growing water and energy needs, but at the cost of curbing the rights of people and communities living near them.
In India and elsewhere in Asia, dams are in some cases reducing or ending community ownership or access to water and land near it, and are often the root cause of conflicts.
While the costs and benefits of building large dams need to be weighed, the “greater good” is what’s important, says Singh.
This article was published online at Business Day Live (BDlive) and was retrieved on 09/07/2015 for educational and information purposes.
Thomson Reuters Foundation