By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the hosting by Nigeria of an international conference on saving the Lake Chad.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by Buhari’s Spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, the conference is to revitalize the basin’s ecosystem for sustainable livelihood, security and development.
This is the first time an international conference on Lake Chad is being organised the six-member countries of the region.
The three-day conference will consist of two days of technical sessions and one day high level meetings between February 26-28, 2018 and it will take place in Abuja.
The high level meeting is expected to have in attendance all of the Presidents and Heads of government of the member-states, namely Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Libya
The key partners coming together in hosting the conference are Nigeria, the United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC and relevant donors including, prospectively, the African Development Bank, AfDB, the World Bank and the governments of Germany, China, Canada and the European Union,EU.
The main objective of the international conference is to create global awareness on the socio-economic and environmental challenges arising from the shrinkage of the Lake Chad, threat to livelihoods including insecurity with a view to developing a comprehensive program 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 and to garner political and financial support for the restoration option identified for the restoration of the lake.
Among the expected outcomes of the conference is a roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations of the conference that should lead to the restoration of the lake; restoration of fishing and irrigated farming as a way of alleviating poverty, strengthening climate resilience in the basin, creating employment, leading to reduction of terrorist activities and increasing the revenue of the population and that of the 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 percent 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 just 2,500 sq.kms, roughly 10 percent 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.
Since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has used every available speaking opportunity at the international level to raise awareness of the need for action to save the Lake.