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Fears of humanitarian disaster as Lake Chad shrinks by 90 per cent

NASA image shows remaining water in Lake Chad in blue

NASA image shows remaining water in Lake Chad in blue

Lake Chad, which was once one of the world's largest bodies of  fresh water, has shrunk by 90 per cent, from 25,000 square kilometres in 1963 to less than 1,500 square kilometres in 2001, the Missionary News Service reports.

A conference held in Rome in Saturday for World Food Day, was told that if water continues to recede at the current rate, Lake Chad, which is surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria will have disappeared in about twenty years from now.

'Saving Lake Chad: A System under Threat', organised by the  UN Food  and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  and  Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was aimed at raising awareness about the disastrous situation of Lake Chad and mobilizing funds to replenish the lake and improve overall food security in the region.  

In addition to an approximately  60 percent decline in fish production, there has been degradation of pasturelands, leading to a shortage of animal feed estimated at 45 percent in certain places in 2006, and reduction in livestock and biodiversity.

FAO said that the 30 million people living in the Great Lake region are already in competition over resources with one another and the progressive reduction of water risks fueling new migrations and conflict.

"The humanitarian disaster that could follow the ecological catastrophe needs urgent interventions," said Parviz Koohafkan, Director of Land and Water Division of FAO. "The tragic loss of Lake Chad must be stopped and the livelihoods of millions of people living in this vast area should be safeguarded."

FAO is working closely with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).  They are actively seeking new models of Adaptive Water Management that take account of traditional agricultural techniques as well as the need to ensure food security for the people of the region.

According to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the diminished flow of water into the lake requires a radical change in water management techniques and a scheme to replenish Lake Chad.

The flow of the two main sources of replenishment for the lake, the Chari and Logone rivers have decreased significantly in the last 40 years. The feasibility study for an ambitious programme to divert water flow from the Oubangui, the major tributary of the Congo River, into the Chari river system was presented at the Rome meeting.

Source: MISNA