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Updating century old Congo River navigation maps and revealing their geomorphological secrets
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  • Mark Trigg,
  • Andrew Carr,
  • Mark Smith,
  • Raphael Tshimanga,
  • Beth Tellman,
  • Bessie Schwarz
Mark Trigg
University of Leeds

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Andrew Carr
University of Leeds
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Mark Smith
University of Leeds
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Raphael Tshimanga
University of Kinshasa
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Beth Tellman
Arizona State University
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Bessie Schwarz
Cloud to Street
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River transport, with more than 17,000 km of navigable channels in the Congo, is a crucial part of the economy for many of the countries sharing the river basin and allows the transport of many goods (timber, charcoal, minerals etc.) and enables access to many areas where roads do not exist. However, river transport falls short of the role it could play in development of the region and has actually declined since the Congo basin countries became independent in the 1960s. This is in part due to years of civil unrest, aging equipment, a lack of infrastructure maintenance, and the poor support and operation of public waterway agencies. River navigation maps are a specialist form of map specifically designed to allow safe navigation of river traffic such as for barges carrying cargo. Boat captains use them as they travel along the river to follow the advised navigation route and avoid hazards such as submerged rocks and shallow channels. The navigation maps for the 1,700 km of river between Kinshasa and Kisangani are issued by RVF (Régie de Voie Fluvial), the state river navigation authority, and are therefore used by all boat captains. These maps originate from the early 1900s and have not been updated since colonial times. As part of the CRuHM project we are exploring the possibility of updating these maps using modern remote sensing methods, together with RVFs experienced input. As part of the update process, RVF have provided us with detailed digital scans of the original navigation maps and we are geo-referencing these to modern geospatial projections, in line with the remote sensing data. This provides us with a unique opportunity to compare snapshots of the river system geomorphology separated by nearly 100 years. We will show the current state of the project and some of the river secrets we have discovered so far.