Flipping Book | Africa's Giants | Salini Impregilo Library

Tremendous human endeavours, such as the construction of a large dam, are always imbued with a sense of the epic. During the build, thousands of workers witness the concrete product of their efforts growing day by day. When unexpected events occur - such as at Kariba during an exceptional flood of the Zambesi - many of these men are ready to put their lives on the line so as not to see their work destroyed. When the dam is finally complete, they stand back and admire it in disbelief. A dam’s shape may be dictated by mathematics, but it is formed by and grafted onto the nature of its location. Once worshiped as gods, many great African rivers were tamed from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s with the help of Italian contractors. Salini Impregilo was responsible for approximately 60 of the many new dams built in Africa from 1959 to 2014. For some of these dams there exists a broad bibliography, including scientific reports by international organisations, comprehensive technical documents, including details about the phases of the site, and books and papers about the social and environmental problems caused by the dams (forced resettlement, environmental changes, etc.). There remains much to be investigated about the works undertaken in Africa in the post-colonial period, thanks in part to the large-scale changes currently underway throughout the continent. Some basic sources, however, such as Africa Water Atlas or Africa’s Lakes: Atlas of Our Changing Environment , in addition to the classics of African historiography by Joseph Ki-Zerbo or Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, may help form a general picture. In the meantime, the idea of Africa as a testing ground for the theories of the Modern Movement is gaining ever more ground. As early as 1967, Edilizia Moderna proposed a review of African countries which, having finally reached some level of political freedom, were then expressing a “chaotic, though vital, eagerness towards architectural problems on all dimensional scales.” Based on research carried out for the exhibition Africa Big Change Big Chance, this essay offers a first inventory of the African dams built by Salini Impregilo. To facilitate an understanding of territorial changes, of which dams are fundamental elements, and of the problem of diversifying the sources for growth, the list of dams is preceded by an overview of the entire continent’s water resources. Following this line of thought, this text examines just a few of the 56 dams, presenting them under four major themes: agricultural development in countries of the Maghreb; transnational problems over exploitation of the Nile waters; large hydraulic projects of Atlantic west Africa; and river labyrinths in sub-Saharan Africa. Water landscapes and new geographical assets In order to gain a true understanding of Africa, past, present and future, it is important first to understand the geography of this great continent. Today, Africa is at the heart of the developing world; according to W. Behringer, in Africa more than any other place on earth, the great changes in climate (and the resulting geographical changes) have dictated the location and nature of settlements across the whole continent. The character of these inhabited landscapes, and the role they play in the compact but diverse “African monolith”, must be evaluated according to abnormal time parameters; first and foremost, the longue durée by Filippo De Dominicis Cristina Pallini Annalisa Scaccabarozzi Rivers, Dams and Large-scale Hydraulic Works in Post-colonial Africa AFRICA’S GIANTS *