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Lake Chad is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Africa.
Over 90% of the lake has shrunk in the last 60 years. As a result, about 17.4 million natives from surrounding regions, who are dependent on the lake, are now in dire need of emergency assistance.
Lake Chad is an endorheic lake in the African continent, and it has become smaller in size over the centuries. The United Nations regarded it as one of the worst crises in the world. The vast aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity in the region is also compromised due to the shrinking of the lake. It has been a great support to more than 30 million people who use it for drinking, irrigation, livestock, fishing, and other important economic activities.
Chari River is the main inflow of the river, which contributes about 90% of water to the lake. The lake experiences a high rate of evaporation due to the region's scorching heat and dryness. It is the most popular and largest lake present in the Chad basin. Fishing in this lake is extremely popular among natives.
More than 80 species of fish thrive in this waterbody, of which 25 species are exclusively found in Lake Chad. It is also home to a wide range of animals, including migratory birds. Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger are the four surrounding countries that border Lake Chad.
Keep reading and find out more interesting facts on Lake Chad.
In 1960, Lake Chad was considered the fourth largest lake in Africa, present on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
However, poor ecological conditions have contributed to shrinking, resulting in the loss of habitat for several animal species. Local communities that benefit from the lake are also majorly compromised. The name Chad means the 'local expanse of water', which is derived from the Nigerian Kanuri word, sade. It is a residue of the former paleolake, Mega-Chad, which was considered to be the largest of four Saharan lakes and was even larger than the Caspian Sea.
The shrinking of this lake has been mentioned in, 'The River War: An Account Of The Reconquest Of Sudan' by Winston Churchill, who published it in 1899. For thousands of years, natives used Lake Chad as a trade center, linking the northern and southern Sahara region. Empires from Kanem-Borno, Bilala, and Wadai once ruled the Chad basin and fought over ownership of the region. These disputes ended during the ninth century, once Islam was introduced.
Conflicts resurfaced when Europeans colonized the Lake Chad region. After their independence in 1960, political leaders of African countries; Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger, united with an idea to develop the lake. They were joined by the Central African Republic and Sudan, who cooperatively took several measures to protect and develop the lake.
Although it receives an extremely less amount of precipitation throughout the year, flora and fauna in Chad Basin are quite diverse. Wetland grasses and over 44 species of algae are found here. A variety of fish species are also spotted in the southern basin, which makes it an ideal area for fishing. More than 119,999,999 lb (54,431,084 kg) of fish are caught by natives from the lake every year. The two most popular fish species found here are the Nile perch and the Charachin.
This wide range of fish in the lake compels multitudes of bird species to migrate to this region. Marbled teal, glossy ibis, ducks, river Prinia, garganey, rusty lark, pintails, and crested cranes are some of the most spotted migratory birds in Chad basin. Although water levels are decreasing every day, a few animals visit the lake quite frequently.
These animals are the red-fronted gazelles, striped hyenas, hippopotamus, patas monkeys, cheetahs, and crocodiles. Remains of extinct hominids were excavated from the dried lakebed of Chad. The fossil of Sahelanthropus tchadensis is one of the fossils that is found here. Lake Chad basin is known to represent one of the largest deposits of natural resources in Africa.
Three major types of landscapes are found in the basin area. Plenty of small islands is present in the eastern part of Lake Chad.
About one-third of the landscape is dominated by bench islands, which are covered in floating vegetation. The vast open water area is the third type which varies both in terms of size and depth. The surface area of the basin is mostly flat, with the presence of a handful of volcanic rocks. Fossils, valleys, multitudes of deltas, and lush green grasslands also surround the lake.
The presence of African manatees in the inflows of this lake renders us the idea that it is a remnant of the paleolake called Mega-Chad. Apart from Chari River being the main inflow of Lake Chad, the Logone Stream also contributes to the lake's water. The northern part of the lake is fed by the inflow of the Komadugu-Yobe River.
The most intriguing fact about this lake is that it has no outflows. But the rapid shrinking of the lake points against this fact. However, evaporation is deemed to be the major cause of shrinkage from this once large body of water in Africa, along with the underground leakage. Lake Chad's water percolates in the Soro and Bodele depressions.
The rapid rate of evaporation is also due to the dry season and extreme heat, which results in prolonged drought in the region. West Africa receives more rainfall. Only about 6 in (15.2 cm) of rainfall is received yearly in the Lake Chad basin, resulting in extensive drought. Thus, the water levels are extremely shallow, with an average depth of about 59 in (149.8 cm).
Other factors are also responsible for the rapid decrease in lake levels, which includes overgrazing, deforestation, and climate change. Poor human management with improper irrigation methods and inappropriately designed dams has immensely contributed to this crisis. Nutritional insecurity, exploding population, and drastic climate change are affecting a million people residing in this region. Therefore, the United Nations has marked it as one of the worst crises in the world.
Several conservation plans are laid down by the United Nations and other concerned authorities to restore water resources in Africa. Plans to restore the lake were put forth by the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 1994, which aimed at controlling the utilization of lake water.
The Lake Chad Basin Commission has adopted three main objectives, which are to be executed by the year 2025. These include the maintenance of the basin along with the surrounding wetland areas. Conservation of the ecosystem and ensuring safe access of the lake water to all other member states are two other objectives of this plan.
Earlier in 1929 and again in 1960, multiple plans were proposed in hopes of revitalizing the lake. One of these plans was to divert the Ubangi River into this lake to enhance the inflow, resulting in flourished agriculture. Other plans are put forth for biodiversity conservation and the development of the basin region, thus aiming to improve the lives of a million people residing there. In 1998, a strategic action plan was put forth for the sustainable development of the lake within 20 years.
Numerous concerns are associated with Lake Chad. The most prominent ones are the flourishing corruption and the rising inequality.
Governance and terrorism have led countries surrounding Lake Chad to rank amongst the 10 least peaceful countries in Africa, according to the Global Terrorism Index Report of 2020. The conflict between the Nigerian Government and the Islamic Jihadist Boko Haram group has unleashed severe political, social, and economic disruptions in the region.
The temperature at Lake Chad is rising faster than the global average. The seasonal and inter-rainfall patterns have drastically changed each year. This has caused food insecurity, pushing communities into the arms of rebel groups.
More than 37,500 people were killed in the conflict between May 2011 and July 2020. Since 2009, over 49 million people have been deprived of attaining their livelihoods through fishing, livestock rearing, and agriculture. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than three million people were food insecure, and 2.89 million of them were in Nigeria alone.
Owing to these acute conflicts, a million people residing in the Chad basin are deprived of food, water, and all other basic survival necessities. Apart from these factors, substantial climate change and drastic irrigation practices have massively resulted in the shrinking of Lake Chad.
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