Will Lake Chad withstand the onslaught?

Lake Chad. FILE | NATION 

The mayhem unleashed on the people of northeast Nigeria by the Boko Haram since 2009 seems to have added to the suffering of millions of inhabitants who have been impoverished by the shrinking Lake Chad Basin.

No fewer than 18 million people in the Lake Chad region of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have had to endure poverty occasioned by their inability to harvest the water resources which hitherto had been their main source of livelihood.

Beside the irrigation and agricultural benefits, the lake also provides access to aquaculture and potable water for both human and livestock.

In 47 years, this life saving lake has shrank from 25,000 square kilometres to 2,000 square kilometers. It is 10 per cent of what it was 47 years ago.

Very expensive

The Chairman of the Nigerian Committee on Climate Change, Mr Abba Bukar-Ibrahim, said the water in Lake Chad had receded over 260 kilometres, affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

Mr Ibrahim, said: “Previously, every day lorry loads of thousands of fish departed from that area to different parts of the world, but these days, you hardly see a lorry load leaving that region with fish. The fishermen have to go very far into the water to make any catches, which makes it very expensive.

“We cannot sit back on this, it is already a crisis situation," he said.

The Senator wondered how long it would take before the lake dried up completely.

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The crisis, he said, affected six countries directly, while several others shouldered the indirect consequences, including the migration of people in search of alternative livelihoods.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Stephen O'Brien, said the human suffering created by the shrinking lake was better told by the migration, displacement and the relocation of the affected people.

Mr O'Brien said more than 9 million people were seeking refuge outside the lake Chad region.

"If we do not act now, the human suffering will only get more extreme. We have to stop this, we can with the will, money, urgency and coordination."

Mr O'Brien said more than nine million people were in need of urgent food aid in the region, saying seven million of them lived in Nigeria.

Several public outcries aimed at saving Lake Chad and promoting socio-economic development in the area were expressed through 14 summits of heads of states and governments and 58 sessions of council of ministers of the riparian states.

Placed in jeopardy

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, while participating in the High-Level Segment of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reiterated the need to recharge the shrinking waters of Lake Chad to avert an environmental disaster along the basin.

But he warned that the four most affected countries could not muster the tremendous financial resources required to turn around the dire situation.

According to President Buhari, millions of people whose daily livelihood had been placed in jeopardy were looking up to their leaders to bail them out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with President Buhari and announced that her government had set aside $21billion (18bn Euro) to assist the recharging of the Lake Chad, through the diversion of rivers from the Congo Basin into it.

She noted that the $58 billion (50bn Euro) project was a great priority to Germany and Nigeria.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was laying a five-year Investment Plan on the proposed water transfer project.

In December 2016, the Commission and PowerChina International Group Limited (PowerChina) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a technical and financial assistance towards the water transfer from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad.

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The MoU was to establish the basis on which the parties would carry out further research of the Lake Chad Basin Water Transfer Project and other future projects in accordance with the Lake Chad Basin Water Charter, national legislations, regulations and practices of member countries.

The core idea is to increase the water quantity in Lake Chad, improve the flow conditions, alleviate poverty within the basin through socio-economic activities, meet the energy needs the surroundings areas and conduct an in-depth environmental impact assessment.

Nigeria’s Water Resources minister Suleiman Adamu said the project had the potential of transferring 50 billion cubic meters annually to Lake Chad through a series of dams in the DR Congo, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Besides, if fully implemented, it would lead to the development of a series of irrigated areas for crops, or livestock over 50,000 to 70,000 km2 area in the Sahel zone in Chad, north-east Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger.

Water treasures

Mr Adamu added that it would also create an expanded economic zone by providing new infrastructure of development in agriculture, industries, transportation and electric production, affecting up to 12 African nations.

He disclosed that the Federal Government had allocated $28 million as its contribution to the Lake Chad Basin Commission in the 2017 fiscal proposal of the Ministry of Water Resources.

The Director-General, Mother of Earth Foundation, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, urged Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, the Central African Republic and Libya to apply best practices in tackling the problems in the Lake Chad Basin in order to avert more conflicts and violence in the region.

“So, the countries in the Lake Chad Basin Commission need to sit down together and look at ways of enforcing best practices to maintain and protect the water treasures that we have,’’ he said.

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