Large Water Projects and Conflicted Territorial Identities in sub-Saharan Africa: Social imaginary significations linked to the Development of the Senegal River

Authors: Xavier Lemaire*, University College London
Topics: Development, Cultural and Political Ecology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Senegal River; large irrigation project; hydro-dams; discourse analysis; social imaginary significations
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Large hydro-dams and large-scale irrigation projects are contentious modernisation projects, heavily criticised for their impact in terms of community displacements and degradation of ecosystems. They disrupt the means of living of the many while more often than not realising the benefits promised by their promoters; currently, under the pretext of energy sustainability and food security, there seems to be a revival of these projects.

This paper relies on a research surveying the case of the development of the Senegal River project, a very large scale project which was first implemented in the 1980s. The Senegal River project has produced, and continues to produce, massive changes in the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen. Taking the perspective of local communities, the research aims to interrogate the redefinition of territorial, cultural and historical identities along the river Senegal.

The paper focuses on the analysis of the discourse of proponents and opponents of the project and how representations of the territories and of the Senegal River have evolved and shaped the design of this project. The research aims more generally to analyse the social imaginary significations linked to the Senegal River project and aims to bring a better understanding of the socio-genesis and of the political ecology of this kind of project and what makes them still so attractive again for decision-makers.

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