The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
New Orleans District
New Orleans, Louisiana, 7-8 November
Fifth Randall L. Gibson Conference, jointly sponsored by Tulane University
and the New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be presented
on 7-8 November 2002 at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans's historic French
Quarter on the topic of “Comparing Rivers: The Mississippi and the Niger.”
A major purpose of the conference is to review historical experience in
the two regions and its relevance for current development policies, plans,
programs, and projects. A related goal is to forge and strengthen linkages
among a broad range of institutions in the two countries.
“taming” of the Mississippi is surely one of the “great projects” in the
epic story of the building of America (Tobin 2001), one in which the Corps
of Engineers played a leading role. The lessons learned from this encounter
with the forces of nature are highly pertinent and timely for river and
regional development planning, at home and abroad.
1953, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, then Minister of Transport, visited the United
States and observed how the Mississippi River was contributing to the nation’s
economic development. He became convinced that the Niger and Benue rivers
could play a similar role in Nigeria. After independence from Britain in
1960, Balewa became Nigeria’s first prime minister. Although he died tragically
in 1966, his dream of inland waterways development has continued down to
June 1999, the newly elected civilian government initiated a master planning
process for physical and social development to achieve “the speedy and
global transformation of the Niger Delta Region into a zone of equity,
prosperity and tranquility.” Convergently, in 2001 the government approved
a plan to dredge a navigation channel in the Lower Niger River some 573
kilometers inland from Warri to Baro in Northern Nigeria. Some communities
along the proposed waterway and throughout the Niger Delta region have
voiced concerns however about potential environmental, social, and economic
impacts of the proposed action.
Corps of Engineers possesses unequalled experience and expertise in river
basin planning and in dredging operations. They also have a mission to
assist the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its national development. In
July 2001, Lieutenant General Robert Flowers, Chief of Engineers, visited
Abuja to assess the country’s needs in light of the Corps’ resources and
responsibilities. This conference is one contribution toward realizing
the aims and aspirations of both countries.
substantive focus of the conference explores the central theme of “development”
in its many dimensions and proportions—river development and regional development;
economic, social, and environmental development, and capacity development—at
scales ranging from local to global. Participants will include Nigerian
and American government officials, industry representatives, natural and
social scientists, nongovernmental organization and community representatives.
desired outcome of the conference is to survey the knowledge base and identify
development problems and possibilities for the two regions as an agenda
for further research and application.
James. Great Projects: The Epic Story of the Building of America, from
the Taming of the Mississippi to the Invention of Internet. New York:
The Free Press, 2001.