Help ! Lake Chad is drying up

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By Emmanuel Mayah

The message was short, graphic and ominous: if Lake Chad finally dries up, 30 million people would die with it. A short video documentary told the story of a looming holocaust that might wipe out populations in Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria if the Lake Chad is allowed to completely evaporate.
Described as a hotspot of climate change, Lake Chad, one of the world’s great lakes is disappearing. It is bordered by the four countries of Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. In 1963, the lake occupied an area of 250,000 square kilometers. Today it is one-twentieth of that size. To tell the story at COP17 were Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, a Nigerian and Executive Director of the Lake Chad Basin Authority; Sandjima Dounia of Chad; Alex Bleriot Momha and Mana Boubakari, both of Cameroon.

Sanusi said the major problem of the lake is rising temperature as a result of global warming. As the water evaporates the lake shrinks in size. As global warming means less rain, wildlife is threatened by falling water level. For fishermen, less water has meant less fish. Families are desperate as fewer fish means fewer incomes. As 30 million people fight for survival from the lake, nomadic herdsmen are made to travel 250 kilometers in search of water and pasture. In the past the lake used to host over a million cattle; today the livestock population is less than 400,000.
The Lake Chad problem has created violent clashes among citizens of the neighbouring countries. As the lake recedes, communities too move in pursuit of the water and over the years they unavoidably cross the border into another country. In 2003, 33 Nigerian villages were ceded to Cameroon. Though the people were Nigerians, the land belonged to Cameroon.
Mana Boubakari said that what is left of the lake is covered by sea weeds. Patches of dry land are also found here and there. For years plans have been under way to replenish the lake by building a dam and 97kilometer of canals to pump water uphill from the Congo River to the River Chari, one of the rivers that feed the lake, and then on to Lake Chad. Though Central Africa Republic and Libya have joined the Lake Chad Basin Commission, international donors are needed to save the lake and its 3o million dependents.



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