Who turned the water off?

That is the question many people in Chad, Africa and neighboring countries must be asking themselves. Lake Chad, which once served as an oasis to the countries of Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, shrunk in size by over 90 percent between the 1960’ s and today.

More than 40 million impoverished people rely on Lake Chad for their livelihood, and a recent United Nations report states that almost 11 million people in the lake region need humanitarian relief to survive. The shrinking of Lake Chad is not a natural disaster waiting to happen, it is one that has already mostly taken place.

France took control of Chad in 1900, and just a few years later, a French army captain described Lake Chad as an ecological wonder. At the time, the food supply was abundant because of crop irrigation and fishing. The lake also provided drinking water and water for life’s daily necessities.

Today, life in the Lake Chad region is much different. Besides the lack of water that sustained millions, Lake Chad is now where the terrorist group Boko Haram carries out many of its atrocities. The poverty created by the Lake Chad crisis has left many hopeless and drawn them to join the terrorist group. To paraphrase one chief, life has gone from bad to worse.

In February of 2018, a glimmer of hope shined through the darkness. A meeting was convened in Abuja Nigeria to discuss the crisis. There were over 1600 participants and a variety of solutions were proposed. The meeting gave birth to “Transaqua”, a plan to build a 1600-mile canal to transfer water from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Chari River which feeds Lake Chad. The cost of the plan is over 50 billion U.S. dollars.

The participants at the meeting will now move forward with environmental and engineering studies. If Transaqua is to become a reality, there will be many challenges to overcome.

For the many impoverished relying on Lake Chad for their livlihood, the hope is that before too long, someone will turn the water on once again.