How to save the Lake District Chad located on both Cameroon, Niger Nigeria and Chad? A conference organized by the Nigerian Government and Unesco was held in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) from 26 to 28 February 2018. The objective: to preserve this region devastated by climate change and conflicts geopolitical. And, perhaps, avoid the disappearance of the lake, which has lost 90% of its surface in 40 years because of global warming and poor management of water resources. Transaqua, a controversial megaproject conceived in the 1980s to replenish the immense oasis drained by a 2.600km long canal, has resurfaced on this occasion. It is a Chinese company which would be in charge of the construction, if it were to take place.
Financing of US $ 6.5 billion
The United Nations is committed to financing research and development programs. $ 6.5 million to provide assistance to the 40 million people who depend on this lake at the crossroads between the Sahel and Central Africa. As the lake has disappeared and the lack of food it entails, the region has become home to many security crises, including the one maintained by the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram.
FOOD INSTABILITY. Small farmers and fishermen quickly joined the ranks of fighters or militias who oppose the group, making this conflict one of the deadliest in the world in a few years. The United Nations estimates that security and food instability has forced 2 million people out of their homes and 10.7 million depend on food aid to survive. The 40 million people living around and on the lake are among the poorest in the world
A feasibility study was commissioned to a Chinese group
To avoid the disappearance of Lake Chad: the urgency is very real , and to face it, the experts gathered at his bedside exhumed Transaqua, a megaproject imagined in the 80s and controversial, which consists of filling the huge drained oasis. The idea, particularly ambitious, is to dig a 2,600 km channel from the Democratic Republic of Congo then through the Central African Republic, to the freshwater lake.
CHINA. The Transaqua project, conceived in 1982 by the Italian engineering and consulting firm Bonifica, involves immense technical and financial challenges, and for these reasons never came into being. But the arrival of a Chinese partner, the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), which signed an agreement in 2017 with the company behind the project, has recently revived hopes and criticism around the project. Little information has been leaked about the agreement that binds the Italian firm today to the giant PowerChina, except that the latter was commissioned to conduct a feasibility study.
A channel carrying Congolese waters to the lake would be "unacceptable"
For its supporters, Transaqua is the only way to cope with the current humanitarian and environmental crisis. "The transfer of water between different river basins is not an option but a necessity" said Sanusi Abdullahi, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, who oversees the use of water and natural resources. "We are faced with the possibility that Lake Chad will disappear and it will be catastrophic for the whole African continent."
WATER WAR. But the project, which according to an estimate could cost up to 14 billion dollars (11.5 billion euros), raises strong resistance in Kinshasa. The transfer of Congolese waters to Lake Chad is "unacceptable" reacted to the telephone the senator of an opposition party, Modeste Mutinga, author of the book The war of water to the door of the DRC It would be to "disrupt the flow of the Congo River with consequences on ecosystems in the DRC" he told AFP. "We must not seek to solve a problem in a corner and create here in the DRC." Same reaction in the MP of the majority Bavon N'Sa Mputu Elima, former Minister of the Environment, for whom "it is necessary to solve the problems in the basin of Lake Chad: the misuse of water by Chadian herders, to increase the water quality of the rivers which feed this lake with water by the maintenance of the banks. "
A geopolitical challenge of a discouraging scale
The technical and security challenges that imply a project like Transaqua are also discouraging. The gigantic canal should cross several countries with changing geography and entangled in chronic political instability. In addition to the Boko Haram fighters around Lake Chad, the Central African Republic, in particular, is devastated by years of war and abuses by armed groups that control large areas. And even if time is running out at the pace when the lake's waters are disappearing, PowerChina's Ziping Huang acknowledges that launching such a project with the prevailing security situation in the region is "beyond the imagination of our company ".
COOPERATION. Finally, the last difficulty is to co-operate with the four countries bordering the lake. "These countries must cooperate if they want to face these transnational risks, there is simply no other way to do it ," says Florian Krampe, of the program on climate change and the risks of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "The question is, are the institutions ready?"
S.S. with AFP