The Federal Government in collaboration with Lake Chad Commission has secured the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in saving Lake Chad from extinction.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu disclosed this at the 39th Session of the General Conference of the UNESCO in Paris, France.
Adamu, who attended the conference under the auspices of the Scientific Committee of the UNESCO, said the UN body had agreed to mount international campaign for support to save the lake from drying up.
The Lake Chad basin regarded as one of the most important agricultural heritage sites in the world providing life line to about 30 million people in border countries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger is said to have lost 90 per cent of its water.
The minister said that the UNESCO had agreed to partner with them in organising an international conference in February next year in Abuja to enlighten the world on the plight of the Lake Chad and the need to do something about the shrinking.
“UNESCO is going to help us to bring experts from all over the world to look at what options we have in saving the lake.
“This is a huge infrastructure project that will change the dynamics of the region and it is a long term project with a lot of consensus to build on as well as diplomatic issues having to do with different countries.
“We hope that at the end of the conference in February next year, we will have an international consensus on what to do, leverage on and how to get a lot of resources and funding,’’ he said.
Adamu said that the commission had proposed inter-basin water transfer from Congo Basin in to the evaporating lake as a measure of saving it from total extinction.
He said from the initial study carried out on the project, it would cost about 14 billion dollar for the water transfer.
“This is happening because the lake has been shrinking for years. From 1974 to date, the lake has shrunk up to 90 per cent of its original size and service area and that is a serious issue.
“From the hydrological point of view, you will shudder to see what will happen in the next 30 years to 40 years, probably we may wake up one day and discover that there is no more lake chad.
“We therefore need to do a lot of advocacy to make the member of the Congo basin understand that we are not taking away their water but taking only 5 per cent of the natural resource to keep the lake chad alive,’’ he said.
The minister however said that, though the inter basin water transfer was considered the most suitable option, they would however, not insist on it but allow the UNESCO experts to advise on any cheaper available alternatives, if any.
Speaking on the benefits of the Lake Chad to Nigeria, Adamu said that its revival would boost food security, job creation, revenue generation and above all proffer lasting solution to the challenge of insurgency and farmer herder clashes.
The minister said that there would also be a return of the popular Baga fish known all over the country and other parts of West Africa.
“Clearly, the major factor of the Boko Haram insurgency is that there are lots of young people that are living in that area without any opportunity whatsoever because of the shrinking lake.
“Herdsmen had been forced to move Southward and Eastward and you can see that crises are getting increased between farmers and herdsmen,’’ he said.
Specifically, the minister recalled that way back in the 70s, Nigeria invested a lot of money in the Lake Chad basin.
“We have a 60,000 hectares irrigation scheme under the South-Chad Irrigation scheme, which was designed to depend on intake of water from the Lake Chad to irrigate the 60,000 hectares for the production of wheat.
“That irrigation scheme is not working now because the water is not available. We need the water to revive that investment.
“All the efforts the administration had been making to boost food production and reduce food import stands to benefit if the Lake Chad is revived,’’ he said.
Adamu said that a lot of other economic activities would be revived and the general livelihood of the people in the area would improve with the revival of the lake.