24 May 2012

Nigeria: Helping to Save Lake Chad

Lake Chad, the largest lake in the Chad basin of Africa which serves as a source of livelihood to as many as 30 million people in Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroun, is threatened by a number of factors ranging from climate change to population explosion, poor conservation practices and other human activities.

The above mentioned factors are said to be slowly sapping the precious lake of life and the life of those dependent on it as the water body has shrunk to only 5 percent of its original size - from 25,000 square kilometers in 1963 to less than 2,000 square kilometers presently.

This no doubt is a worrisome development that must be arrested in order to preserve the waters of the lake, livelihood of its dependents and to ensure the stability of the ecosystems and balance of nature in general.

Saving Lake Chad today would mean economic stability for not only the population and wild life dependent on its resources, but also social stability in terms of reduced conflicts and other insecurity problems that leaders of the four countries bordering the fresh water lake fear is escalating due to the shrinking of the lake and struggle for scarce resources as the water slowly dries up.

About 179 fish species that are found in the lake are said to be endangered and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), according to online encyclopedia, has declared the lake an ecological catastrophe.

As early as the 60's down to the 90's and up till now, the Ubangi River water transfer has been considered the most viable option in saving Lake Chad.

Rising from its 57th Ordinary Session recently in N'djamena, Chad Republic, Council of Ministers of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) consisting of all Heads of States of member countries of the basin renewed commitment to rescue Lake Chad and restore it to a size where its water can be effectively manage and efficiently conserved to improve the economies of the benefiting states.

The heads of states agreed to take concrete steps to address the problem by contributing money to carry out an inter-basin water transfer from River Congo through the Chari/Ubangi Rivers as part of efforts to resuscitate and rescue the lake from completely drying up.

President Goodluck Jonathan who addressed the council expressed worry over the spate of insecurity around the lake and called for greater partnership and the prevalence of peace for better coexistence among the population residing in the basin.

He said Nigeria would continue to meet its financial obligations in resuscitating the lake as a sign of commitment to peace and security in the region and for the development of the economy of the region.

As part of intensified efforts to save the lake by the council, the 22nd of May was chosen as designated to be celebrated as 'Lake Chad Day' and for the first time, Nigeria observed the day with a symposium tagged "Let us Strive to Save the Lake Chad" as part of its advocacy strategy.

At the symposium, it was observed that the impact of the receding lake on Nigeria, particularly its negative effect on the 67,000 hectares South Chad Irrigation Project (SCIP) which is currently operating at 1% would be devastating economically hence the need for the government of Nigeria and the Nigerian people to continue to take the lead in efforts which are ongoing to restore life and activity back to the lake.

Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe has equally called on Nigerians to support the fight to save the lake through advocacy and efficient use of water resources especially by those living around the lake.

She said the situation, if not addressed, would affect wildlife and the economy of the states sharing its resources as well as encourage insecurity and conflicts over scarce resources.

The task of saving the lake cannot be left in the hands of governments alone but even as they take the lead, the private sector and donor agencies as well as international development agency need to join in the effort to save the world from an impending human and natural disaster posed by this shrinking lake.

Communities living around the water body need also to have a sense of belonging in preserving the fortunes and resource of the lake as it affects their very existence as well as security.

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