Senegal Launches Contested Water Desalination Scheme

Via Terra Daily, a report on Senegal’s controversial desalination plan:

Senegal has kicked off work to build the country’s first water desalination plant, a scheme contested by critics as costly and an environmental peril.

President Macky Sall on Tuesday ceremonially launched work to build a plant in Dakar’s Mamelles district aimed at easing the capital’s chronic water shortage.

Sall said the “complex and unprecedented project” was a key phase in an infrastructure scheme designed to catapult Senegal to emerging-economy status by 2035.

The coastal facility will desalinate water from the Atlantic, with a peak capacity of 100,000 cubic metres (more than 25 million gallons) per day.

The project also entails renovation of more than 300 kilometres (180 miles) of water pipes.

Sixteen districts with a population of more than a million people will eventually have access.

Dakar, located on a peninsula of the western-most point of continental Africa, has a fast-growing population accounting for a fifth of Senegal’s 17 million people.

The city draws most of its water from Guiers Lake, located 250 kilometres (150 miles) away in northern Senegal.

The Mamelles scheme has come under fire from critics who say the government is trying to emulate rich but arid Gulf states which have invested massively in desalination.

Desalination plants are energy-intensive, which have made them targets for environmentalists who say they contribute to climate change if they are powered by fossil fuels.

The process of salt removal also leads to the creation of toxic brine, which can pollute coastal waters.

“This plant will contaminate marine life — it’s built on one of the few remaining (public) beaches at Dakar, where the coastline is in private hands,” said Cyril Toure of a campaign group called Y En A Marre (“Had Enough”).

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