Lake Chad Shrinks, Conflict Grows

Via The Council on Foreign Relations, a look at increasing tension related to Lake Chad’s shrinking supply of water:


Chadian men collect water with plastic canisters loaded on a hand cart in Lake Chad, on the island of Kouirom, January 27, 2007. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Chadian men collect water with plastic canisters loaded on a hand cart in Lake Chad, on the island of Kouirom, January 27, 2007. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier this week, the New York Times detailed the impact of Niger’s desertification on children, who must trek longer and longer distances to collect water. This is only one of the negative consequences of climate change that has hastened the drying up of the Lake Chad water basin. Over the last forty years, the water basin, which has supported up to thirty million beneficiaries across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, has shrunk by 95 percent. The lake’s shrinkage is the result of a myriad of factors: decreased rainfall resulting from climate change, increased demand for water caused by population growth and agriculture, an explosion of parasitic vegetation, and weak institutions managing competing demands.

The water shortage strains inhabitants of the region and promotes interstate and intrastate conflict. In northeastern Nigeria, the region adjacent to Lake Chad, Fulani herders have been forced further south in search of new pastures. This has put them into conflict with farmers facing similar resource limitations, and fisherman, too, who are competing with both farmers and herders over water diversion.

The conflict extends past national borders. Starting in the 1980s, the rapid recession of the lake drew Nigerian fisherman further into Cameroonian territory, leading to several military encounters. By the 1990s, more than thirty Lake Chad villages founded by Nigerians were counted in Cameroon. In 2002, the resulting border dispute went to the International Court of Justice, which settled in Cameroon’s favor. But the real problem still remains: there is not enough water to go around and only weak institutions to protect what is left.

Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan and his Water Resources Minister Sarah Reng Ochekpe called for concerted efforts to save the lake, while marking May 22 “Lake Chad Day” in Abuja. But it remains to be seen if these declarations will translate into action.

As it stands, farmers and herders competing for water sounds uncomfortably reminiscent of the crisis in Darfur.



This entry was posted on Saturday, May 26th, 2012 at 7:41 pm and is filed under Cameroon, Cameroon, Nigeria.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2024 Water Politics LLC .  'Water Politics', 'Water. Politics. Life', and 'Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty World' are service marks of Water Politics LLC.