Nigeria to host international conference on Lake Chad

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By Ismaila Chafe

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an international conference in Nigeria on saving the Lake Chad and revitalize its basin’s ecosystem for sustainable livelihood, security and development.

Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, made this known in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday.

Shehu said that conference would be the first international forum on Lake Chad organised by the six-member countries of the basin’s region.

“The three-day conference will consist of two days of technical sessions and one day high level meetings between Feb. 26, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2018 and it will take place in Abuja,” he said.

The presidential aide said that the high level meeting would have in attendance all of the Presidents and Heads of Government of the Lake Chad Basin member-states.

The member-states are Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Libya.

He said that “key partners” collaborating to host the conference were Nigeria, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Lake Chad Basin Commission and relevant donors.

Other partners, according to Shehu, are the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the governments of Germany, China, Canada and the European Union (EU).

He said the main objective of the conference was to create global awareness on the socio-economic and environmental challenges arising from the shrinkage of Lake Chad.

He explained that the challenges included the threat to livelihoods, especially insecurity, with a view to developing a comprehensive programme for action to save the lake from extinction.

“Specifically, the conference is expected to discuss and develop consensus on the different options to restore Lake Chad, including the Inter-Basin Water Transfer project from the Ubangi River in Central Africa to the Lake Chad.

“Experts, researchers and resource persons are expected to exchange knowledge and share information on water resources development and management in a crisis environment.

“It is also to garner political and financial support for the restoration option identified for the restoration of the lake,” Shehu added.

He revealed that among expected outcome of the conference was a roadmap for the implementation of its recommendations “that should lead to the restoration of the lake and restoration of fishing and irrigated farming”.

According to him, this will alleviate poverty, strengthen climate resilience in the basin, create employment, lead to reduction of terrorist activities and increase the revenue of the population and Lake Chad basin countries.

The lake Chad Basin, which is shared by Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and the Sudan, is about eight per cent of the size of the African continent, with a population of about 40 million inhabitants.

Its surface area has shrunk from 25,000 square kilometers to 2,500 square kilometres, roughly 10 per cent of its original size.

This development has adversely affected the economic, social and cultural environment of the area. As at today, the lake is a source of insecurity, instability and the loss of livelihoods.

The presidential aide observed that since coming to office, Buhari had used every available opportunity at the international level to raise awareness of the need for action to save the Lake Chad. (NAN)