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Abuja Conference to ‘Save Lake Chad’: A Great Victory for Africa!
A great victory was achieved at the international conference to “Save Lake Chad” held in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28, 2018. This author, along with others has been advocating over many years for Transaqua; a transformative inter-basin water transfer project to recharge the shrinking Lake Chad with water from the Congo River Basin.
In the section of the Road-map “Outcome from the Conference” the Transaqua Project is endorsed as the preferred option for refilling Lake Chad:
The Conference acknowledged: The various studies carried out showing that there is no solution to the shrinking of Lake Chad that does not involve recharging the lake by transfer of water from outside the basin. That Inter-basin water transfer is not an option; but a necessity. That failure to take appropriate and timely action, will result in Lake Chad completely drying up soon and that would cause humanitarian crisis, pose serious security challenges, not only for the region, but for the entire African continent and the World. The Transaqua Project which would take water from the right tributary of River Congo, conveying the water 2,000 km channel to Chari River is the preferred feasible option (Annex 5).
Annex 5: Transaqua Transfer Scheme
Therein, the Conference urged: The African Union to consider the consequences of Lake Chad disappearing not only as regional issue but, an African tragedy as part of its agenda, and endorse the Inter-Basin Water Transfer (IBWT) initiative as a Pan-African project to restore the Lake for peace and security to reign in the Lake Chad region and the promotion of navigation, industrial and economic development in the whole Congo basin. The International Technical and Financial Partners and Donors agree to support the Lake Chad Basin initiative through the financing of LCBC Development programmes aimed at addressing the problems caused by the shrinking of the Lake. The African Development Bank to facilitate the creation of the Lake Chad Fund of US $50 billion, to be sourced from African States and donations by Africa’s Development Partners to fund the Lake Chad IBWT and infrastructure projects. Read entire Roadmap to Saving Lake Chad
Below is a statement distributed the conference. The author was a prominently featured participant during the during the three-day conference, and his statement was extensively covered in the Nigerian press.
Now Is the Time to Think Big and In the Future
It gives me great pleasure to participate in this historic conference that will finally discuss the necessity to recharge Lake Chad after decades of inaction. Saving Lake Chad by transferring water from the Congo River Basin is strategically important for all nations on the Africa continent. Since the drying up of North Africa several thousands of years ago, Lake Chad remains the largest body of water in the desert. Lake Chad provides the means of existence to tens of millions of Africans, who live in the Lake Chad Basin, who are primarily engaged in fishing and farming. Conditions of extreme poverty in the region have produced a fertile recruiting ground for Boko Haram, and contributed to the desperate migrations of Africans to Europe. Leadership by the heads of state of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin, through joint military deployments, has weakened the capability of this violent extremist organization. However, to eliminate the spawning of new terrorist movements, and, to end the waves of Africans risking their lives to escape poverty, we must give the people, especially the youth, hope for a better future. This requires more than simply humanitarian aid or charity; it requires economic transformation.
“Let the Sahara Desert Bloom”
These are the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, the last great American President, as he flew over the desert during World War II. Now, seven decades later, we must embrace this unfulfilled task: transporting water to the desert. Through massive investments in infrastructure; water, energy, and rail, we can transform the desert, and reclaim it back from the terrorists, who thrive in desolate environments. We should not allow a twenty-thousand-year astronomical cycle that creates extreme arid weather before the return of rainfall, to determine our future. Mankind through the power of creativity and free will must intervene for the benefit of human species, whose birthplace after all is the African continent.
There are no valid objective reasons for African nations to endure abject poverty. Hundreds of millions of Africans live on less than $2 per day, and suffer from hunger, cholera, and other diseases. The dearth of electrical power, and efficient rail transportation is literally (not figuratively) killing Africa. These conditions can be overcome with continental approach to investments in vital infrastructure
Transforming the Lake Chad Basin
The most ambitious and visionary inter-basin water transfer project to recharge Lake Chad is Transaqua, proposed over three decades ago. The project’s design includes transferring 5-8% of the tributary water to the Congo River Basin via a 2,400-kilometer navigable canal to feed into the Chari River in Central African Republic, the major tributary to Lake Chad. The Congo River is the second most powerful in the world, discharging approximately 40,000 cubic meters per second or 1.2 trillion cubic meters annually into the Atlantic Ocean. Rather than allowing these huge volumes of water to be simply deposited into the vast ocean, Transaqua intends to utilize the super moist Congo River Basin to bring water to the Sahel Desert. The project envisions creating new levels of trade and commerce between the nations of the two basins, in addition to generating hydro-electric power, and bringing irrigation to three million acres of land. If this bold engineering project had been taken up decades ago, approximately one eighth of the African continent would look completely different today, and millions of needless deaths would have been prevented.
Transaqua Meets China’s Silk Road
What was not foreseen thirty years ago was the emergence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative-(BRI) – a new dynamic redefining political and economic relations among nations throughout the planet. Now, we can delightfully envisage how Africa might look when China’s BRI intersects Transaqua. Consider the potential for Africa as we let our imagination peak with excitement into the future.
Port Sudan on the Red Sea is presently included in China’s Maritime Silk Road. The governments of Sudan and Chad have already discussed with China constructing a railroad from Port Sudan to Nyala, South Darfur that will continue to N’djamena, Chad’s capital. There are plans for this Sahelian railroad to continue to Cameroon and Nigeria, potentially continuing westward all the way to Dakar, Senegal. On the eastern side, rail connections from Sudan to Djibouti and Ethiopia are also anticipated. The Sahelian (proto East-West) railroad will possibly intersect the long-awaited South-North railroad in the proximity of Sennar, Sudan. From this advanced viewpoint, we can look at the new physical topology of Africa in which Transaqua will be situated. Successfully linking the Lake Chad Basin nations to those of the Great Lakes region with the rest of Africa, through these new land and waterway economic-transportation corridors will be transformative for the whole continent.
My friends, now is time for our conscience and imagination to unite in embracing this momentous occasion with our collective decision to take responsible action for the future of Africa.
Mr. Freeman has been involved in promoting economic development in Nigeria for over 20 years, having visited all regions of the country beginning in 1994. He was appointed Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in November 2014.