[From “Africa Month” on 13.7 Billion Years, focusing on biodiversity, conservation, sustainable development and ethical consumption).]
Lake Chad, which sits at the edge of the Sahara Desert, surrounded by Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, has been shrinking at an astonishing rate due to climate change and poor damming and irrigation methods.
Around 4,000 BC, it was bigger than Germany or Japan, spanning an area of about 154,000 square mile (400,000 square kilometers). Today, it is just around 840 square miles (1,350 square kilometers). That’s not even twice as big as Los Angeles. United Nations estimates show that the lake has shrunk 95% since the early 1960s. Lake Chad — which gets its name from a local word meaning “great expanse of water” — has been misnomer for a long time.
If nothing is done, scientists warn, the lake could be gone in 20 years. That would spell doom for the more than twenty million people who rely on the shallow, ancient lake for their survival.
“Agricultural engineers have been working for two decades to boost Lake Chad region’s productivity by building irrigation schemes,” writes Shantha Bloemen of UNICEF.
“So far, they have increased the area under irrigation to 140,000 hectares, including 30,000 from an electric pump scheme that was started in 2005. But water levels are too low for these schemes to operate as they should. Instead of growing, the region’s agricultural productivity has fallen, compounded by years of scant rains. An estimated 35,000 tonnes of annual food production has been lost.”
“It’s a severe and silent problem,” said UNICEF Chad nutrition chief Roger Sodjinou, according to Emily Miller in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian . ” Our latest figures show that 225 000 children are dying every year from malnutrition in Africa’s Sahel belt.”
But it’s not just humans who rely on the health of Lake Chad. It is home to declining populations of hippopotamus and crocodile, as well as and large populations of birds such as Ruff ( Philomachus pugnax ), River Prinia ( Prinia fluviatilis ), the Rusty Lark ( Mirafra rufa ) and the Black Crowned Crane ( Balearica pavonina pavonina ).
” In Bol, a town that once was on the shores of the lake, environment chief Faradj Dembell begged nations like South Africa to curb pollution from transport and industry that is contributing to Chad’s emergency,” Miller writes.
“He said , ‘I am pleading with the rest of the world to help stop climate change so we can survive.'”
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