ALL stakeholders of the Lake Chad Basin must redouble efforts to ensure that this strategic internal water body is saved from the verge of extinction where it currently precariously perches. It is time to move from mere talks and meetings to concrete action.
The lake, which bestrides four countries – Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republic – used to occupy a land space of 25,000 square kilometres some 50 years ago.
Today, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who last week Monday opened the International Conference of Lake Chad that ended on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, the legendary Lake Chad has lost 90 per cent of its water and only covers about 1,350 square kilometres.
The livelihoods of over 40 million people have been put at risk and what used to be Lake Chad could turn into pure desert. Research has thrown up fossilised evidences that in prehistoric times, most of the deserts today, including the Sahara Desert, used to be vast seas.
Just decades ago, Lake Chad was a rich source of fish which was dried and sold in bags throughout the West and Central African regions. But today, the ecological disaster that has ensued from its shrinkage has thrown millions of people off large swathes of fertile agricultural lands and rendered them jobless and poor.
The region now harbours one of the world’s largest shares of internally-displaced persons with over seven million people constantly faced with the threat of famine.
The poverty rate of the region is among the worst in the world today, which is why Islamist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram have found the area a fertile recruiting ground for their fighters and suicide bombers.
There is simply no way of solving the ecological, security and economic problems of the region without comprehensively addressing and reversing the extinction of the Lake.
Happily enough, experts are firmly convinced that Lake Chad’s horrible fortunes can be reversed. The United Nations Development Programme, UNDP and its partners, including member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have been working on efforts aimed at reforesting of its territorial precincts.
More importantly, the transfer of water from the Ubangi River in the Central African Republic through a proposed multi-purpose Transaqua Canal to Lake Chad has been on the cards. But unfortunately, it will require at least $50 billion to accomplish.
We call on all stakeholders not to lose heart over the cost of re-growing this lake but to pursue it with determination. There really is no other option.
But most importantly, international efforts to remove the Islamist terrorists and criminals worsening the plight of the populations around the zone must be boosted. Without security being restored nothing can really be achieved.
To save Lake Chad is a task that must be done.