- Title: CHAD: Climate change threatens West Africa's Lake Chad
- Date: 11th April 2007
- Summary: MEN PICKING FISH FROM BASIN
- Embargoed: 26th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Chad
- Country: Chad
- Topics: Environment / Natural World
- Reuters ID: LVAB020O6C0W4MRELMMUURD4HIKB
- Story Text: Millions of people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad may lose a primary source of livelihood, as climate change and overuse have caused a significant drop in Lake Chad's water levels. Over the last 40 years the lake has receded by over 40%. For hundreds of years, the waters of Lake Chad have been a rich source of food and water for the people living along its shores.
But Chadians, like fisherman Adamou Docteur, are starting to worry about their future.
"There are too many fishermen who are mostly coming from Nigeria. We've got enough fishermen," says Docteur.
Over 20 million people rely on Lake Chad, which is bordered by Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The lake is also on the edge of the Sahara, Africa's largest desert. In the last 40 years, the water basin has receded by almost 95 percent. At its deepest, Lake Chad is only 7 metres, so the combination of severe droughts and temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius are causing it to evaporate.
"Before the lake was up to here. And now the water is, here where the green grass is," explains Isaac Bakhit, an environment expert.
The lakes receding water may mean that fishermen here lose their main source of livelihood.
"At this rate, without the intervention from the Environmental Resources officials, or from the Chadian Ministry of Resources, the lake will be dry in 20 years time. We won't even be able to find one litre of water here," says Bakhit.
During the fishing season, between March and October, Koirar Island becomes home to over 2,000 migrant fishermen from as far as Ghana. The lack of water has meant less fish in recent years, so small mesh nets are being used to land a decent catch. But this is endangering stocks because young fish are not being given a chance to mature and spawn.
"Before, we were able to catch like say 20 basin, 30 basin, but now to get 5 basin is very hard. Each basin can weigh like 5 kilos. But now to get that at least 5 basin, 25 kilos of fish is very hard," adds Brother Jab, a Nigerian fisherman.
When the water levels are low, the fish hide under dense vegetation left exposed by the retreating waters, which form into floating islands. But these islands are now hampering transport routes used for commercial trade between the lake's villages. Everything is carried by boat here, even black market oil smuggled in from Nigeria.
There's also the problem of pollution. The local Boudouma population use the lake's water for all their daily needs.
"If we talk to anyone who drinks water from the lake, they tell us they have had dysentery or typhoid because they use this water without treating it," says Bakhit.
There are some projects underway to try and protect and treat the lake. Nigeria has recently pledged 16 million US dollars towards the cause. At a local level, in the village of Bol, trees are being planted along the lake's shores to try to stop erosion and the advance of desert sands. But reforestation programs are slow.
"The world can save lake Chad if we can communicate between us. We have to prove that we know where we want to get, and why we want to change direction, and that we are determined, engaged to start at local national and regional level," says Anada Tiega, an official at the Lake chad basin commission.
If Lake Chad is allowed to dry up, millions of people will lose their livelihoods. The world will also have lost a critical natural resource in a climate getting ever hotter and drier.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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