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Fact Check: Is Buhari’s statement on Lake Chad correct?


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Monday said Lake Chad, located in the country’s northeast border, has “shrunk significantly from its original size.”

Buhari told World leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit that the reduction in the size of the lake was due to climate change.

But his claims about the lake was questioned by Reuters reporter Paul Carsten.

Carsten claimed “Lake Chad is not shrinking,” citing “recent studies”. His tweet has been retweeted 145 times and liked 86 times with 45 comments.

Who is right?

A report published on May 15, 2019, by a Berlin-based think-tank adelphi and authored by Janani Vivekananda, Dr Martin Wall, Dr Florence Sylvestre, Chitra Nagarajan, said, “the lake is currently not shrinking.”

The report, according to its authors, was published after two years of first-of-its-kind research in the Lake Chad region. Its findings draw on new analysis of 20 years of satellite imagery and long-term hydrological data from the Lake Chad basin, including ground measurements.

However, the authors of the report, financed by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the lake has shrunk from its original size. They blame that on the severe drought of 1970, and 1980s.”

“These droughts led to the lake shrinking from a high point of 25,000 km² in the 1960s when it was the world’s sixth-largest freshwater body and a thriving commercial hub for the entire Sahel, to just 2,000 km² in the 1990s,” the report says.

The lake’s current size is put at 14, 000 km².

Based on these figures, President Buhari’s claims that Lake Chad has shrunk significantly is valid. And there is more.

The report also notes that “climate change is having profound adverse impacts on the conflict, intensifying existing dynamics and creating new risks.”

But an alleged shrinking of the lake is not the problem. However, high levels of rainfall and wide temperature variability are undermining people’s lives and livelihoods. Temperatures in the region are rising one and a half times faster than the global average.”

Both Paul Carsten and President Muhammadu Buhari were right: Lake Chad is currently not shrinking, but it has shrunk from its original size. Moreover, Buhari never used the word, “shrinking”.


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