Conference recommends inter-basin water transfer to save Lake Chad

Mar 9, 2018

Lake Chad: An estimated 12% of the over 370 million people in eight countries around the lake depend on it for survival. (Photo, UNDP)

Over 1100 participants representing Heads of States and Governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Academia, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Private sector, among others attended the International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja.

The Conference, under the theme "Saving the Lake Chad to revitalize the Basin’s ecosystem for sustainable livelihood, security and development" provided a platform for different stakeholders to exchange views and share information on water resources development and management in a crisis environment for sustainable development in the Lake Chad Basin. In addition, building consensus on the different options for restoring the Lake Chad, it was also used as an opportunity for soliciting political and financial support for the its restoration.

Diminishing water levels of the Lake have contributed to the significant reduction in economic viability of the lake's basin, triggering mass migration, conflicts and crises in the region.

The Lake Chad Basin, shared by eight countries including Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan, is one of the largest fresh water bodies in Africa and occupies about 8% of the continent's size. An estimated 12% of the over 370 million people in these countries live around the lake and depend on it for crop and livestock farming, fishing, commerce and trade. Due to climate change and human activities the size of the lake has reduced from 25,000 km2 to less than 1,500 km2 in just over 50 years.

During the Conference participants observed that degradation of the resources in basin was partly responsible for the security challenges around the region and that climate change and unsustainable agricultural practices contributed to rainfall variability in the region, a situation that was having a direct impact on millions of people who depend on the basin's resources. The Conference also emphasised the need to strong political will among member states in finding lasting solutions the challenges facing the Lake Chad Basin.  

UNDP Nigeria Deputy Country Director for Programmes, Joerg Kuehnel, presented during a session that discussed options for regional cooperation and security in and around the Lake Chad Basin. While recognizing that the diminishing in size of the Lake Chad presented a real concern to the broader Basin, populations living within and depending on its resources and that these affected all countries in the region, UNDP made a strong case for recharging of the Lake, in addition to other interventions planned.

To achieve this, it was important to improve regional and cross-border cooperation, enhance stabilization efforts to provide a conducive environment for human development, and strengthen governance systems and structures in the region. UNDP’s regional approach to stabilization and its work with the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the African Union to develop a regional stabilization strategy are the first critical steps in this regard.

The conference concluded that there is no solution to the shrinking Lake Chad that does not entail transferring water to it from another source, and recommended an inter-basin water transfer from the Congo Basin, connecting the River Congo to the Chari River that flows into Lake Chad. The conference also asked the African Union to consider this as a Pan-African initiative that could help restore peace to the Lake Chad Basin and called on the African Development Bank to facilitate the creation of a Lake Chad Fund of $50b.

UNDP will continue to work in an integrated manner to strengthen stabilization and regional cooperation for the Lake Chad Basin to help provide a conducive environment for the inter-basin water transfer and similar projects to advance development in the region. The Road Map to restoring Lake Chad that came out of the conference called for additional capacity building of the Lake Chad Basin Commission as well as collaborative arrangements with regional capacity building networks.

UNDP stands ready to provide the necessary support to the Lake Chad Basin governments and stakeholders to help bring this project to fruition.

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Head of Communication

Lucky Musonda
lucky.musonda@undp.org

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