Struggle Over the Nile

Lori Pottinger: The impact of dams

‘Africa’s large dams have not reversed poverty’.

“Africa’s large dams have not reversed poverty, they have not dramatically increased electricity rates, they have not dramatically improved water supply for people living there … What they have done is help create small industrial economy that tends to be companies from Europe and elsewhere, and so these benefits are really, really concentrated in a very small elite.” 

Until 2015, Lori Pottinger was the editor of World Rivers Review, a quarterly publication of the NGO International Rivers, and of the annual Dams, Rivers and People reports.

Since joining International Rivers in 1995, she had been a lead campaigner for International River’s Africa programme, working to raise international awareness about the problems with large dams in Africa and alternatives to them. Key campaigns include the Bujagali Dam in Uganda; the giant Lesotho Highlands Water Project; and the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa Dam in Mozambique.

“Many many people have been displaced by large dams,” Pottinger told Al Jazeera in 2011. “Social impacts of losing your free-flowing river can be huge.” 

“The Aswan High Dam … actually evaporates about 10 percent of its total storage every year, it actually ends up being something of a deficit of water for Egypt. This is just one of the problems with large dams.
The Aswan holds back sediments … it’s one of the reasons why half of Egypt’s farmland now is poor, or declining quality. And one of the reasons too that so much artificial fertiliser has to be used on these farms.”

Click here for more on our three-part documentary Struggle Over the Nile.