Nigeria offers funds for study to save Lake Chad

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo pledged US $2.5 million to help fund a feasibility study on how to replenish the fast-depleting Lake Chad with water from the River Congo at the opening of the Lake Chad Basin Commision on Monday.

A combination of severe drought in the 1970s, the steady southward advance of the Sahara Desert and intense dependence on its waters for agriculture has seen Lake Chad, once one of Africa's largest bodies of fresh water, decline from 25,000 sq km in 1963 to about 1,500 sq km today.

“The next generation might not find the lake if nothing is done to save it,” Obasanjo said.

The LCBC, which includes Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic, has proposed building a 2,400 km canal to transport 100 billion cubit metres of water each year from the River Congo to the lake.

The LCBC says the survival of more than 20 million people in the Lake Chad region, who depend on its waters for fishing and agriculture, is now seriously threatened.

Speaking at the opening session of a LCBC meeting on Monday, Obasanjo said Nigeria would provide half of the US$5 million needed to conduct the feasibility study.

Muhammad Adamu, the commission's executive secretary, called on member states to pay their outstanding LCBC contributions to keep the body functioning, although he did not detail which countries were in arrears.

He said payment of contributions to the commission had also been made a precondition by donor agencies for funding of projects to save Lake Chad.

“While I congratulate the member states who have made efforts to meet their commitments in spite of the difficult economic conditions and other competing interests, I want those in arrears to pay, so that we attract donors in order to meet our developmental goals,” Adamu said.