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To save Lake Chad

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FILE PHOTO: Men on camels cross the water as a woman washes clothes in Lake Chad in Ngouboua, January 19, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun/File Photo

The consideration by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the report of an international conference on Lake Chad earlier this year that proposed $14.5 billion for the rescue of the Lake from extinction, is the latest in the series of proposals on the project but without concrete action.

Why is it so? Why the inaction?

We hope that notwithstanding the prevailing hostilities around the Lake, it will not be said that there is more talk than action to salvage the drying Lake Chad.

The concerned countries and their international partners should do more and talk less because time is of essence.

The more action is delayed the more the Lake dries up and the more exorbitant the project cost.

The conference was convened to find workable solutions that might be cheaper than the inter-basin water transfer.

A study shows that it is technically feasible to transfer water from River Ubangi to Lake Chad to increase the level of the Lake.

The conference, attended by Nigerian, Gabonese and Angolan presidents, reverted at huge cost to the initial plan of inter-basin water transfer from the River Ubangi, the largest tributary of the River Congo running through the border of Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

This option, which resulted from detailed feasibility studies, has remained on the drawing board for a long time presumably due to lack of funds.

Sadly enough, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LSBC) countries have been unable to move the project forward due to financial constraints.

Funding has remained a major constraint hampering project implementation. Nevertheless, whatever alternative solution that might be put forward would require funding.

There are also the geo-political concerns of the Congo basin countries, which fear that channeling huge waters from the Congo River might exacerbate the drought situation in the basin area. This can be sorted out through regional cooperation.

It is not surprising that President Muhammadu Buhari has been championing the cause of the Lake Chad including seeking funding to implement proposals.

The critical importance of the Lake to the ecosystem and the livelihood of millions of the riparian population cannot be overemphasised. Nigeria will be a major beneficiary.

Going by the report, there seems to be no other option readily at hand outside the inter-basin water transfer.

But the question is whether all the options have been explored.

Water is the critical element. The water could be sourced from either surface like the Congo River or groundwater aquifers.

And, of course, there is no easy way out. Scientific information is needed to solve the problem.

For example, there is a need to explore the groundwater option.

Getting to the aquifer would require geophysical technical know-how.

Seeking to get to the aquifer deep below is not rocket science.

Striking water at the subterranean aquifer might serve as a cheap solution to refill the Lake.

Studies show that the Lake Chad basin is one of the largest sedimentary groundwater basins in Africa comprising three main aquifers namely the upper Quaternary with the Lower Pliocene, the Continental Terminal and the Cretaceous lower aquifer.

Granted that the aquifer system is sensitive to climatic changes, as their main source of water recharge is surface waters in a dry arid environment; this might be the only constraint.

But scientific studies suggest that the Sahara Desert was lush and wet millions of years ago.

The aquifer option should be explored. The entire effort would be driven by technology.

AS the $14.5 billion is still under consideration without specific commitments, it is pertinent to ask how the money would be raised. Who should pay what and what is the timeline?

As funding has been a major constraint to this project, what plans are there to overcome this problem?

Needless to say that no effective action is possible on the Lake amid the Boko Haram insurgency in the region, effort should be geared towards ending the crisis for peace to return to the area before anything could be done.

The crisis in the Lake Chad basin area including Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun and Chad, has escalated over the last two years.

Insecurity, violence by Boko Haram and counter-insurgency measures have displaced over 2.4 million people, making it the fastest growing displacement crisis in Africa.

There is no doubt that we need to refill Lake Chad for the obvious human and ecological benefits.

The cost is huge and worth spending. International donor agencies should be involved.

The abject state of Lake Chad, which is the livewire of millions of people, demands urgent action to be taken. Achieving that singular objective of recharging the Lake would be immeasurable.


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