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Proposal in preparation: Congo-HYCOS

The Congo River is the largest river in Western Central Africa. Its overall length is 4,667 km making the Congo the second longest river in Africa after the Nile. The Congo basin catchment area is 3 680 000 km² and mean annual discharge is 41 800 m³/s making it second to the Amazon. The basin lies across the equator and the alternation of rainy season in the opposite hemispheres ensures a relatively stable flow along the year.

In spite of the considerable natural endowment in water resources, the activities linked to water management remains quite underdeveloped in the Congo River basin, in particular because of lack of quality and accessible data. The few data available however indicate a significant variability of precipitations and of water resources in central Africa during the 20th century, in particular after the period 1967-1972 which shows a considerable reduction in precipitations on sub-regional scale. In certain parts of the Congo basin, such as the part of the Oubangui catchment, the combination of strong anthropic pressures and major reduction in the water resources availability is already posing serious threats to the viability of environment and human settlements.

At the initiative of the Heads of State and Governments of Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the International Commission for the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha basin (CICOS) was established in 1999. The original CICOS goal was to promote regional integration through a sustainable and equitable exploitation for navigation purposes of the water ways represented by the Congo River and its tributaries, to maximize the potential of the region’s water ways, to foster the co-operation on shared water-ways and to update the rules governing navigation. However the growing concern on water resources availability to sustaining socioeconomic development and environmental protection have swiftly prompted member countries to add the promotion of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) at the scale of the whole Congo basin into the CICOS mission.

As a follow up to the incorporation of IWRM into its mandate, CICOS decided to undertake the development of a Strategic Action Plan (PAS) for the sustainable management of the Basin of the Congo River. In the frame of the strengthened regional cooperation on water issues represented by the PAS, CICOS sought WMO assistance for developing a project based on the WHYCOS concept to be implemented in the Congo River basin. A preliminary project concept document has been submitted to Member countries through CICOS and to international aid agencies for consideration, among which to the African Water Facility.

Congo-HYCOS overall goal is to contribute to the sustainable development and integrated management of the water resources in the Congo river basin by making available timely and quality controlled water related data and information to decision makers, water managers and other stakeholders in the basin by reinforcing the countries’ data collecting and managing capacities and facilitating the access by all stakeholders to coherent and reliable information on the hydrological cycle.

The immediate objectives to achieve to overall goal are:

  1. A basin wide system for collecting, managing and processing hydrological data
  2. Timely and high quality water related information products meeting the users requirements
  3. Strengthened technical and institutional capabilities at national level to produce and make use of water related information
  4. A regional framework of reinforced cooperation in water matters

Recently, in May 2007,  the African Water Facility requested WMO to prepare project document for pilot project for demonstration. WMO prepared a project profile and it was submitted to AWF for funding.