What you need to know:
- Lake Chad has shrunk and is now 10 per cent of what it was 47 years ago.
- In a speech to the UN General Assembly last year, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria told the audience climate change was eating away the Lake.
- The plan, Buhari said, is to recharge Lake Chad through the diversion of rivers in the Congo Basin to empty their waters into the lake.
For years, Boko Haram were known to be the cause of violence, displacement and suffering in the Lake Chad Basin.
Now the locals have an unlikely ally - climate change.
With an estimated 40 million people scattered across various countries that share the basin, Lake Chad is now faced with changing weather patterns, all of which have added terror to the residents.
The region in northern central Africa, covers almost eight percent of the continent and spreads over seven countries of Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Sudan, Central Africa, Chad and Cameroon.
About 20 percent of the total area of the Lake Chad basin, or 427,500 kilometres square, is called the Conventional Basin (42 percent in Chad, 28 percent in Niger, 21 percent in Nigeria and nine percent in Cameroon), overseen by a transboundary body called the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
Yet, the lake itself is in terminal depression, according to environmentalists. Four of the seven countries; Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, directly share the waters of the lake sustaining agriculture and for other uses.
Before it showed its drying signs, countries here focused on Boko Haram. The terror merchants have killed about 39,000 people in Nigeria alone since 2009.
The vast area has become the theatre of insurgency as fighters of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province IISWAP) have made life unbearable.
Boko Haram’s bid to Islamise Nigeria has largely been resisted by government security agencies. But the group has been relentless in their ambushes, sometimes kidnapping civilians across the countries.
Now they have to look over their shoulders for Boko Haram as they stare at shrivelling crop. The farms which used to rely on predictable rainfall and the lake’s waters are now degraded. The rain is not as certain as before.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Lake Chad is useful for irrigation, but also provides access to aquaculture and potable water for both human and livestock.
However, in 47 years, Lake Chad Basin has shrunk from 25,000 square kilometres to 2,000 square kilometres. Put simply, it is now 10 per cent of what it was 47 years ago.
In an interview, Mamman Nuhu, the Executive Secretary of Lake Chad Basin Commission, said the lake is losing what people seek in it for livelihoods.
“We are losing a lot of plant life and animals, including fish species. Farmers, herders and fishermen have lost their livelihoods.
“It’s a real crisis for us,” Nuhu, who also heads the joint taskforce of the basin countries against Boko Haram, said.
“In addition to the natural or physical environment, there are other equally important ‘environments’ which deserve attention in view of the role that they play in generating economic growth and in ensuring sustainable development which is the central issue of our concern,’ said Prof Alabi Adejara, a Nigerian environmentalist, referring to the importance of the lake to the region.
In this region, besides the destruction to economic and social infrastructure in the unending war, more than 10 million people, including two million Nigerians, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are being held in camps in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The fighters have occupied a large portion of the Lake Chad region, making it difficult for agricultural and fishing activities and hampering economic and social activities.
Stephen O'Brien, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a Security Council meeting recently that that millions of people were in need of urgent food aid in the region.
Boko Haram's campaign ``is as much or now even more a humanitarian catastrophe’’ as climate change has added to the collateral damage, he said.
With the supports of European Union, US, UK and Germany and the African Union (AU), the Multinational Military Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising soldiers from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been battling the insurgents.
The operations of the MNJTF have led to militarily progress in reducing the movement of Boko Haram and ISWAP by pushing them back into their sanctuaries.
Chad’s Chief of General Staff, Gen Tahir Erda Tahiro told a media briefing recently that: “If the states around Lake Chad agree on a new mission, there will surely be another contingent redeployed on the ground to finally crush the insurgents and contain the smuggling of small arms.”
In a speech to the UN General Assembly last year, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria told the audience climate change was eating away the lake.
“We will continue to lead in efforts to have solid partnerships for the ecological restoration and recharge of the Lake,’’ but explained that none of the countries in the region could muster the financial resources to turnaround the situation.
The plan, Buhari said, is to recharge Lake Chad through the diversion of rivers in the Congo Basin to empty their waters into the lake.
The Lake Chad Basin Commission and Power China International Group have already signed a deal on the water transfer, Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources reported. The project has the potential of transferring 50 billion cubic metre of water annually to the Lake Chad through a series of dams in DRC, Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
If fully implemented, the project could lead to the development of a series of irrigated areas for crops, and livestock over an area of 50, 000 to 70, 000 kilometre square in the Sahel zone in Chad, North-East Nigeria, Northern Cameroon, and Niger, the ministry reported.