By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: Recharging the Lake Chad Basin was the issue on the front burner on Wednesday when the Social Development Integrated Centre(Social Action) in partnership with Development and Peace-Caritas Canada, launched its report tagged, “Boiling Over: Global Warming, Hunger and Violence in the Lake Chad Basin”.
The report which revealed that all is not well in the Lake Chad Basin where the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency has triggered a major humanitarian catastrophe, examined the underlying conditions that enabled the growth of violent extremism in Borno and Adamawa state.
According to the report, adverse ecological changes linked to climate change and state development projects created the conditions for impoverishment and massive displacement even before the advent of Boko Haram.
Speaking in his opening remarks, the Minister of Environment, Surveyor Suleiman Hassan at the launch, revealed that Lake Chad which began to shrink in the 1960s due to changes in climate patterns, was once the sixth largest lake in the word, providing freshwater to over 40 million people across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
He added that the Lake has decreased in size from 22,000 square kilometers in the 1950s to fewer than 1,500 today; and may even completely dry up within 20 years according to the Nigerian government.
The Minister, who was represented by the Director, Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Yerima Tarfa, stated that one of the goals of the Muhammadu Buhari led administration was the recharging of the Lake Chad, adding that President Buhari has given the marching order to the Ministries of Environment, Water Resources and other relevant Ministries, Department and Agencies to come up with the modalities for the recharge of the Lake.
According to him, “A lot of initiatives have already been taken towards the recharging of the Lake. For instance, Nigeria is spearheading the recharge of Lake Chad with 3 other African countries through the construction of 2,500 kilometers of navigable channels from River Ubangi in the Congo Basin.
“The planned recharge of the Lake Chad Basin would address environmental problems created by the loss of over 95 percent freshwater from the lake, which led to massive social and economic loss for millions of families who depend on the water for their survival”.
He further said that efforts to recharge the water would require ”unprecedented levels of political cooperation of member states of the Community of Sahel Saharan States, and technical collaboration and financial partnership from international partners: governments, development institutions and investors”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director Social Action, Dr. Isaac Osuoka noted that the report is intended to contribute to improving awareness about the underlying causes and the ramifications of the conflict in the Lake Chad Basin generally and northeast Nigeria in particular.
He also pointed out that the report shows that understanding the social ecology of violence is imperative to sustainable peace in the northeast Nigeria and else where, adding that the intersections of an ongoing ecological crisis and violent conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel region generally, have been realised in their engagements and associated research.
In his words, “The near total loss of Lake Chad has had profoundly negative impacts on fishing and agricultural livelihoods as the Lake used to serve as a lifeline for millions of people, and by 2009, many young men in the Lake Chad Basin were unemployed”.
Osuoka, added also that the reality of poor governance, the looting of funds by officials and contractors and the resultant abandonment of ecological restoration and development projects, many of which have been implemented without adequate consideration of environmental impacts, have all provided triggers for the crises in the region.
He called on the Nigerian state to develop appropriate legislative and policy framework that is just and guarantees the lives, rights and livelihoods of all, pastoralists and farming communities alike, and urged civil society organisations to engage in discussions about reasonable options and alternatives.
For her part, the Program Officer-Africa, Development and Peace, Genevieve Talbot, said the report speaks about environmental security, human right violation and poverty, a mix which gave rise to the conflict being witnessed presently.
She emphasized that with the increase in climate change impact, livelihood challenges, human rights abuses , the issue of environmental security is more and more present, adding that there is a need to work as one voice to find lasting solutions to the problems.
The report pointed out that recharging the Lake by using channel waters from the Ubangi Rivers in Central Africa to fill up the empty bowl that now forms the Lake, is one of the most viable options for reviving it.