Lake Chad, a living example of the devastation climate change is wreaking on Africa

03/12/2015
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African Governments, especially those of the Lake Chad Basin region, want to secure the future of the precious but dwindling water body.

The officials and experts have expressed the need for adaptation actions as a priority to save the lake and the lives of the over 20 million people living in the area.

At the presentation of a new plan of action to revive the lake at the COP21 climate summit in Paris on December 2, members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission said the local economy of the people in the region depended on the lake activities such as fishing, agriculture and pastoralism in the upper catchment of the lake.

“The new plan of action gives preference to priority areas like agriculture, infrastructure development and transportation facilities to ease evacuation of produce to the markets,” Suleiman Adamu, Nigerian Minister of Water Resources, said at the project presentation.

Statistics from the commission show that more than 150,000 fishermen live on the lake’s shores and its islands. The current estimate of annual fish production from the lake is about 120,000 tonnes and over 37 million tonnes of cereals exported annually.

Yet the people living around the lake say they have no access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation because the necessary infrastructure is lacking.

“We think only the much-needed infrastructure that will bring long-term sustainability can ensure the success of the Lake Chad revival project,” said Adamu.

Poor water management, he said, can exacerbate the effects of climate change on economic growth. But, if well managed, it can better neutralizing the negative impacts.

At the opening of COP21 on November 30, President Paul Biya of Cameroon and peers of the Lake Chad Basin Commission had put forth the case of not only securing the future of the regional water supply, but also the lives of the people around the area from the threats of Boko Haram.

Like his Chadian and Nigerian counterpart, the Cameroonian President shared the grim outlook for Lake Chad, which he said was a living example of the devastation climate change was wreaking in Africa.

“We all watch helplessly as our precious regional water body has been dwindling over the years. We think it is high time we take action to bring life back to the lake, which is an important resource to the people of this community,” Paul Biya said.

Statistics show that the lake’s surface area in the past 50 years has been reduced from its initial 25,000 km2 to less than 2,500 km2 due largely to its waters drying up.

Environment experts attribute this to increasing temperatures from global warming.

The Presidents of countries of the Lake Chad Basin in their messages all sounded the alarm about the absolute necessity to reach an agreement during this conference that will address the crisis.

“We cannot afford to fail,” Paul Biya told a full conference hall shortly after the formal opening ceremony of the UN conference.

As Cameroon’s contribution to addressing the climate issue, Biya said efforts were afoot to reduce the country’s carbon footprint by 32 per cent by 2035. He also noted that the country was taking steps to control desertification and scale up cooperation with other Central African States within the framework of the Central African Forests Commission and the Lake Chad Basin Commission with regard to water resources management.

The same message was reiterated by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

The plan of action which is to span a period of 10 years is estimated to cost some 900 million euros. Ninety percent will be funded by donors and the remaining 10% by member states of the LCBC. The project will receive funding from the African Development Bank.

The action plan the officials announced is geared at significantly contributing towards food security, employment and social inclusion by improving in a sustainable way the living standards of the people of the Lake Chad Basin through provision of basic infrastructure, health care, education, access to clean water, protection of the environment, support to productive sector for easy access to resources and markets, conflict management, peace and security.

The dwindling waters of Lake Chad was aggravating the environmental degradation in the region that is impacting the social and economic well-being of the population of member countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

The impact of the degrading environment on migration is stark with a new phenomenon of moving not only for greener pastures but also for life safety, experts say.

The lake region leaders thus agreed that securing the future of their drinking water supply will boost harvests in this drought-stricken area, where crop failures have driven thousands of farmers to suicide and pushed many youths to embark on the perilous journey to Europe.