2 March 2018

Chad: Shrinking Lake Chad Waters - Rescue Plan Adopted

Lake Chad Basin Commission Heads of State ended a conference in Abuja (Nigeria) on February 28, 2018.

The leaders of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Gabon, joined by experts and political stakeholders on February 28, 2018, concluded an international conference in Abuja, Nigeria on saving Lake Chad from drying up. Rising from the three-day meeting, leaders, in the "Abuja Declaration," restated their commitment to implement Transqua, a massive project to refill Lake Chad with water from River Congo by dredging canals.

The African Development Bank, AfDB, is to provide 50 billion US dollars (26,915 billion FCFA) for the project. It was also agreed that additional studies be carried out on the environmental impact of the project. "Together, let us share this mission of rescuing Lake Chad Basin with renewed vigour, determination and international collaboration as our inaction or delay will continue to accelerate the deteriorating standards of living of millions of our people ... The time to act is now. The time to bail out the region is now. The time to show our humanity is now," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appealed.

"It is time to go beyond mere intentions," noted Chadian President Idriss Déby. His counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger concurred. "The irreversible degradation of the lake leaves us with no option but to implement the Transqua Project, which others consider too ambitious, but is indispensable for the survival of the lake," he noted. President Ali Bongo of Gabon promised to establish a monitoring system for the lake and the surrounding landscape.

The International Conference on Lake Chad was organised by Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin Commission with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. The theme was "Saving Lake Chad to revive the basin's ecosystem for sustainable livelihoods, security and development." The lake has shrunk by 90 per cent in the past four decades, due in part to climate change and mismanagement.

Lake Chad is the main source of freshwater for 40 million people, mainly in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. As it dries up and hunger rises, the region has become fragile. Migration and resettlement have intensified as farmers and fishermen are confronted with leaner harvests, while pastoralists are moving out in search of water and food for their cattle.

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