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Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC)

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was established on 22nd of May 1964 by the four countries that border Lake Chad: Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad. The Republic of Central Africa joined the organization in 1996, Libya was admitted in 2008. Observer status is held by Sudan admitted, Egypt, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. N’Djaména, Capital of Chad hosts the Headquarters of the Commission.

The mandate of the Commission is to sustainably and equitably manage the Lake Chad and other shared water resources of the Lake Chad Basin, to preserve the ecosystems of the Lake Chad Conventional Basin, to promote regional integration, peace and security across the Basin. The LCBC is a basin organization, member of both the African Network of Basin Organizations (ANBO) and the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO). The Commission if funded by contributions of Member State, but there is reflection for an autonomous financing of the Organization. Lake Chad is the fourth largest African lake after Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyassa. The size of Lake Chad which is one of the major Africa’s fresh water reduced of 95 % for the past 45 years. In 1963, the size of the lake was 25,000 km2 as opposed to 2,000 km2 today. The lake is the remnant of a former quaternary sea and has an altitude of 280 m and a depth which does not exceed 4 meters today. It is covered by islands and undergoes an intense evaporation.

Lake Chad is dying. It receded tremendously since the two harsh droughts in 1972-1973 and 1982-1984. It did not receive waters for too long. The rainfall dropped from 320 millimeters to an average of 210 millimeters. The two major rivers which flow into the lake are no longer powerful: the Chari River which originates in the Central African plateau and provides the lake with 90% of its waters, the Komadugu-Yobe which provides about 5%, El-Beid and others rivers, about 5%. Its highest level is noticed in December-January and the lowest level in June-July. In 2008, its dimensions were 30 km length and 40 km width in the mouth of the Chari - (Logone) and an overall size of 2,500 km2. Lake Chad covers less than 10 % of its 1960’s size.

Lake Chad, once one of the African continent's largest bodies of fresh water, has dramatically decreased in size due to climate change and human demand for water. This lake basin stretches almost 1000 kilometers (600 miles) from the foreground of the image to the foot of the Tibesti Mountains. Once a great lake close in surface area to North America's Lake Erie, Lake Chad is now a ghost of its former self. According to a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, working with NASA's Earth Observing System program, the lake is now 1/20th of the size it was 35 years ago.

Found at the intersection of four different countries in West Africa (Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon), Lake Chad has been the source of water for massive irrigation projects. In addition, the region has suffered from an increasingly dry climate, experiencing a significant decline in rainfall since the early 1960s.

The most dramatic decrease in the size of the lake is shown in the fifteen years between January 1973 and January 1987. Beginning in 1983 the amount of water used for irrigation began to increase. Ultimately, between 1983 and 1994, the amount of water diverted for purposes of irrigation quadrupled from the amount used in the previous 25 years. The basin of the lake is not naturally deep, so the surface area of the lake tended to spread out, keeping the total depth to little more 23 feet (7 meters). In recent years, rainfall patterns have begun to change, and tributaries to Lake Chad have not been refilling the basin as rapidly as they used to. The lush, productive flora and fauna fed by the wetlands of the shallow lake have suffered as a result.

This has led to significant changes for various communities of people that live in the vicinity of the Lake. While for some the now exposed lake bed has enabled new land to be cultivated, much of the available fresh water that might have been used for irrigation is no longer dependable. As rainfall rates appear to be declining year after year, people living nearby develop even greater dependence on the lake, draining it even faster.

Lake Chad is a vast marshy area filled with water, islands and vegetation. There is no sand neither gravel but its banks are covered by alluvions which make the soil fertile. Down the years, sedentary tribes welcome for a few months cattle breeders from kanembu, peul and fulbe ethnic groups. Their wives are very beautiful through the ring they put in their nostrils and their large breast as well as their coloured tunics and magnificent bracelets. Their looks are powerful just like the majestic beauty of kuri cattle covered by their marvellous horns.

The salinity of the northern basin may increase if its water intake remains low, this would cause the disappearance of many plant and animal species thus speeding up erosion. Fishing which reduced from 243, 000 tonnes between 1970-1977 to 56 000 tonnes in 1986-1989, may keep dropping depriving riparian populations of a major revenue while States of the northern parts of Cameroon and Nigeria will be among the poorest of their respective countries. Safe water scarcity may cause the outbreak of diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.

The saving campaign of Lake Chad could be the embryo of a multiform regional cooperation. Relevant challenges, strategies to be implemented and common achievements could compel LCBC to become a regional political and economic organisation in an area which contains over thirty million people.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2016 18:45:55 ZULU