Keeping development projects in scale

``Africa has big rivers, and some big dams. Except in drought years, it has rain. But so far it has few projects to balance the difference between natural supplies and man's needs. . . .'' So says Lazlo David, a senior program officer at the UN Environment Program headquarters here. He sees an urgent need for basic, long-term water policy and planning.

Rain is not well distributed. Rivers empty into the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Ground water is often very deep.

``Proper water policies are expensive and they take many years to develop,'' Dr. David says. ``Environmental side effects of big dams require detailed study.''

Although more UN agencies and donor governments are becoming interested in water policies, African populations are shooting up at such rapid rates that the Sahel, the Sudan, and Ethiopia in particular keep overusing available supplies.

``Africa,'' he says, ``needs better water storage, better reservoirs, better policies, better ideas. It needs skilled manpower. That takes commitment -- and time.

To come up with the Tennessee Valley Authority took the US 150 years. . . .''

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