In 1943, after having flown over the Sahara Desert on his way to a Casablanca conference with Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt remarked to his son Elliott, that with the recreation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes? It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”
Later in the trip, FDR made Winston Churchill apoplectic by discussing plans for anti-imperialist development with the Sultan of Morocco, including mooting American aid in providing the resources to train indigenous scientists and engineers to develop the nation.
FDR’s American System vision for African development was not taken up in the post-war era, but his outlook was echoed by at least two prominent statesmen of the next generation from very different backgrounds—Kwame Nkrumah and President John F. Kennedy. It was no mere coincidence that twenty years later, when Ghanaian President Nkrumah addressed the Organization of African Unity, he would also speak about the “possibility for the Sahara to bloom.” Nkrumah’s vision also would be temporarily crushed.
But today, finally, FDR’s and Nkrumah’s dream is beginning to be realized. A giant step toward greening the desert, and defeating the miserable living conditions which go with it, was taken this February, when a meeting of several African heads of state decided to go ahead with a massive project of water engineering called Transaqua. Although proceeding without American government backing, this project is truly in the spirit of American System development, a long-term investment in transforming the physical environment for the benefit of the general welfare.
It is with that in mind that we present this report by an American who does understand the American System, and has worked persistently for several decades to bring its benefits to Africa.—Nancy Spannaus
The Abuja Conference
After two months, the deliberations from the “International Conference on Saving Lake Chad” held in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28, 2018 are still reverberating, and will continue to do so. This historic conference, the first of its kind to be convened on the African continent, was initiated and sponsored by the Nigerian government in conjunction with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), and supported by the United Nations. It has already begun to change the thinking of what is possible for Africa’s future.
From across the globe, hundreds of water experts, hydrologists, scientists, political leaders, advocates for Lake Chad, the African Union, the Africa Development Bank, and the World Bank, joined the heads of state of the Lake Chad Basin nations for three days of deliberation on the best policy to recharge the contracting Lake Chad.
Having served as an advisor to the LCBC and participated in several discussions with the Nigerian government on the necessity for an inter-basin water transfer project to recharge Lake Chad, this author was given a prominent role throughout the entire proceeding, addressing the gathering several times in various capacities. (Written remarks by me were also circulated at the conference and to the press.)
This is an interesting and useful article. I have stressed for decades the urgent need to construct both an East-West and a South-North Railroad. A high-speed transport grid that Africa should have completed decades ago, is essential for the well-being and economic growth of Africa. Such a transportation network, integrated with several hundreds megawatts of electrical power, would create an infrastructure platform that would be transformative; producing the conditions for African nations to finally eliminate hunger and disease. These projects are possible now with the expansion China’s New Silk Road, initiated by President Xi Jinping, which has changed the strategic geometry of the world. For example. At the February Abuja conference to ‘Save Lake Chad’ at which I participated, the Head of States endorsed the mega Transaqua project; an inter-basin water transfer proposal to recharge Lake Chad. The Transaqua concept had been in circulation for over thirty years, but with no progress until ChinaPower become involved. As I advised the participants at this conference: now is the time for Africans to think big!
Can China Realize Africa’s Dream of an East-West Transport Link?
The Jamestown Foundation-Publication: China Brief Volume: 18 Issue: 6
African development hinges on a maddening paradox: its greatest asset—the sheer size and diversity of its landscape—is also the greatest barrier to its development. Landlocked countries are cut off from ports, and the difficulty of moving goods from country to country weighs down intra-continental trade (only 15% of African trade is within Africa. (African Development Bank, 2017) African consumers bear the brunt of these difficulties. . Costs are driven up by a host of factors: tariffs, border delays, corruption. But the biggest challenge is that no streamlined transport route exists between West and East Africa – only a decaying and underdeveloped road and rail system which pushes up costs and drags down efficiency.
Several ambitious schemes have been proposed to link Africa’s east and west coasts, some of which are closer to full realization than others. Most notable in this respect is a plan to expand the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5) into a true cross-continental road and rail link, the early stages of which China has helped bring to fruition where Western consortiums failed. Likewise, Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may help create expanded sub-regional linkages, particularly in East Africa, that could help facilitate the emergence of an eventual, true East-West link in the long term. However, in the short-to-mid-term, the obstacles to a truly robust set of East-West transport links are formidable, and it is unlikely that China’s involvement will be a panacea.
I wish to begin this keynote address by recalling two important events that happened 55 years ago. On 25thMay 1963 in Addis Ababa, thirty-three (33) African Heads of State and Government form the Organization of the African Union (OAU) with high hopes for rapid political independence, peace, security, economic cooperation, development, and a better life for the people of Africa.
The then President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in a speech at the meeting said;“Our continent certainly exceeds all the others in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42% of the world’s total.”
Sadly, fifty-five years after this speech, most countries of sub-Saharan Africa have less than 60% access to electricity. In the DRC, a country with the highest potential for hydro-electricity generation, less than 16% of the population have access to electricity. In Niger, it is about 12% access to electricity.
A year after the creation of the OAU, precisely on the 22nd May 1964 at Fort-Lamy now known as N’Djamena, the LCBC was created with equally high hopes. At creation the LCBC was expected to help an estimated population of 11,091,000 people to sustainably manage the Lake Chad and its basin. There was adequate water for development for this population as the Lake Chad had a surface area extent of about 25,000 km2. Today, the Lake Chad region is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with 7 million displaced people and about 2 million depending on humanitarian assistance and has the highest poverty and birth rates in the world.
Without education, energy and infrastructure no Nation will be out of poverty and misery.
Challenges Decades of Rapid Growth, Droughts, and Famine
Fifty-four years after the creation of the LCBC, the basin is characterized by steadily increasing population and drought. The population of the present conventional basin experienced a 100% decennial growth rate. The population increase by 33% to 31,461,000 by the year 2000 and 40 million by 2010. The Lake Chad Basin population is projected to be 50 million in 2020 and 62 million in 2030.
As the population growth rate increases every decade, the Lake Chad basin is at the same time undergoing severe droughts, famine, and water distribution problems, human and animal diseases. The consequences of these negative factors meant that local population must move or risk property destruction or death. As population groups migrate to minimize the risk, the chances for conflict increases among and between ethnic groups based on social, cultural, economic and/or religion differences.
These changes that have occurred in the past 54 years in the Lake Chad conventional basin principally because of global climate change and augmented by accelerated population growth are responsible for the accumulation of social tension which could have led to the outbreak of the violent insurgency that we face today in the Lake Chad basin and the migration of our youth to Europe.
3.1 The Inter-Basin Water Transfer Study
In 1992, a decision was taken to develop a master-plan for the Lake Chad basin to include the establishment of an environmentally sound management of the natural resources of the Lake Chad conventional basin. The feasibility study for the water transfer from the Congo basin to the Lake Chad was the second priority project out of 36 projects selected for implementation in the LCBC Master Plan.
One proposal to transfer water from the Congo to the Lake Chad called “TRANSAQUA” was submitted to the LCBC in 1984 at the height of the most severe drought affecting the Lake Chad basin. This proposal was approved and shared by the then President Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo (former Zaire) but was considered too big hence a smaller proposal taking water from river Ubangi to the Lake Chad was adopted by the Member States of the LCBC as requested by the Government of the Central African Republic.
Raising an estimated 6 million USD for the pre-feasibility study of the Ubangi – Lake Chad Inter-Basin Water Transfer became a challenge until the government of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo provided support and launched a diplomatic campaign to get the no-objection of the two Congos for the study to begin. The conduct of the feasibility study was awarded to a Canadian Firm, CIMA International, and work commenced on the 13th October 2009 for a period of 28 months.
The study was completed in 2011 with the conclusion that the Ubangi – Lake Chad Inter-Basin Water Transfer project is technically feasible and economically viable from the Congo basin via the Ubangi River to Lake Chad through a combined inter-basin transfer: a pumping transfer via the Palambo dam on the Ubangi River and a gravity transfer via the Bria dam through a deviation of the Kotto River. This will increase the water level of the lake by at least one meter(1.0m)in both the south and the north basins and increase the size of the lake by about 5, 500 km2 over a period of 4 – 5 years. The combined cost estimate of the projects for the transfer was put at US$14.5 billion.
The result of the study was endorsed by the 14th Summit of Head of States and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission on 30th April 2012.
3.2 Solution to Lake Chad Insecurity and the Future of Africa
The installation of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 opened new opportunities to continue the search for a long-term solution for insecurity in the Lake Chad and the Sahel, economic integration of Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel in a new form of African regional partnership.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari secured a financial support in the amount of $1.8 m from the Chinese government and facilitated the engagement of Power China International of China to conduct “Basic Research” to update data and re-package the Water Transfer Project from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad that will inform the selection of a suitable engineering option for the water transfer.
Among the measures taken under the new approach is to convene all stakeholders from the AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, EAC, CICOS and LCBC and international partners to share experiences and engage in constructive discussions on how to restore the Lake Chad and promote African peace, security, development, and integration.
Restoring the Lake Chad is primarily an African strategic problem. Whatever action is taken to restore the Lake Chad, the direct beneficiaries are the African people. Today, following the dreams of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his 32 fellow Head of States, African shave continental governing institutions in the form of the AU, the AUC and its subsidiary bodies such as the regional economic communities (REC). In Africa we also have developed common visions for infrastructure development (PIDA) and the ‘Agenda 2063’ for the socio-economic transformation of the continent as well as being a building block in the achievement of the goals of the 1991 Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community.
What the Lake Chad region is requesting is that African leaders should look at the problem of insecurity and the lack of development in the geographical periphery of the Lake Chad region, the Sahel and the Central African region and develop an integrated regional approach using African resources to find a solution that will benefit all Africans. We hope the discussions and the result of the international conference on Lake Chad shall open some new ways of addressing contemporary African problems while at the same time laying the foundation for future African peace, development, and integration.
I wish to end this address by pointing out to our critiques that at this stage the people of the Lake Chad basin countries are only looking at the technical and economic feasibilities of all ideas to restore the Lake Chad. The Lake Chad basin countries also want to concretize a new partnership with our fellow Africans in the Congo basin countries to create a giant transportation, energy and agricultural infrastructure for the central African and the Sahel regions to create jobs for millions of our youth and lay the basis for the future developments for socio- economic integration, peace and security for the African continent.
There is no solution to the shrinking of the Lake Chad that does not involve recharging the Lake with water from outside the basin. The issue in our opinion is which option will be the most effective and the most beneficial to both the donor and receiving basins.
Therefore, inter-basin water transfer is not an option; but a necessity, otherwise we are faced with the possibility of Lake Chad disappearing and that would be catastrophic for the entire Africa continent.
Poverty, misery, loss of hopes and the spread of violent extremism, human trafficking and, migration in the Lake Chad Basin, which I have sadly witnessed, has endured for too long. It must come to end. That is the task before all of us, who are gathered here today at this historic conference.
Long live sub-regional cooperation ! Long live African solidarity ! Je vous remercie pour votre amiable attention !
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 entireRoadmap 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.
Since 1963, Lake Chad has been allowed to diminish from from a vast 25,000 square kilometers to a now unacceptable level of 2,500 square kilometers. As a consequence of the inaction to reverse the shrinking lake, over 30 million Africans, who live in the Lake Chad Basin, and depend upon fishing and farming for their livelihoods, have suffered greatly. Boko Haram has exploited this severely depressed condition to recruit youths, whose future appears bleak. Finally, this dire crisis; the shrinking Lake Chad, is being addressed at a global conference in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28,2018: Historic Lake Chad Conference, which I will be a participant: my role at the conference.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Water Resources, Eng. Suleiman Adamu, and Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Eng. Sanusi Abdullahi, should be congratulated for initiating the first global gathering on the African continent to discuss solutions to reprenish Lake Chad. by transferring water from the Congo River.
It is time for Africans to think big. We can return Lake Chad to its former size, transform the Lake Chad Basin, and create a corridor of economic development between the Great Lakes region and the Lake Chad basin with the mega inter-basin water transfer project: Transaqua
Abimbola Akosile THISDAYLIVE
February 1, 2018
The Federal Government of Nigeria, on behalf of other Heads of States and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, is planning to host an international Conference from February 26 to 28 in Abuja on proffering solutions on saving the drying Lake Chad. This was disclosed by the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, when the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed paid him a recent courtesy visit in Abuja.
Adamu stated that the main objective of the Conference is to find workable solutions in recharging the drying up of the basin. “In the next 50 to 100 years from hydro-logical perspective, if nothing is done now, the lives of the people of that region who depend on the lake as their source of livelihood would be in danger as the Lake faces extinction”, he said.
The Minister proposed for cheaper and workable solutions to saving the Lake from extinction. According to him, the MoU signed between the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the PowerChina International Group Limited in April 2016 to save Lake Chad from drying up, can be actualised by the transfer of water from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad Basin.
Adamu said the study done by PowerChina shows that it is technically feasible to transfer water from River Congo to Lake Chad thereby increasing the level of the lake. To him, this would halt the receding of the lake and the drying of the north basin due to climate change, according to a release issued by the Ministry’s Director (Information & Public Relations Unit), Mrs. Margaret Umoh.
Speaking further, he called for more workable solutions that may be cheaper than the inter-basin water transfer. On the issue of cooperation between Nigeria and the UN on the re-integration of the people of the North-east ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency, the Minister said part of the ministry’s efforts in cushioning the effects of the insurgency in that region under this present administration in the past two years has been by budgeting about N1 billion annually for water supply and sanitation facilities for the IDPs nationwide.
Earlier, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Mrs. Mohammed said the purpose of the high-level mission, which was an informal consultation on political, human rights, humanitarian and development issues, will help scale up UN presence in the North-east in particular and Nigeria in general.
She said UN is more committed in the re-integration process ongoing in the North East as well as in the planned conference of saving Lake Chad that is scheduled for February. She charged Heads of States and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to consider passing the resolutions of the conference in a communiqué to the African Union (AU) for further action.
The support of the United Nations for this conference being sponsored by the Nigeria government is important to the entire continent and should be supported by all African nations and the African Union. Refilling Lake Chad will not only transform the Lake Chad Basin, but with the Transaqua inter basin water transfer project, the economy of 12 African nations will be affected. For Africa to development its agriculture and manufacturing sectors it requires great infrastructure projects in water, rail, and energy, which is what I have been advocating for many years.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Hussein Yahaya
The Federal Government of Nigeria on behalf of other Heads of States and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission is planning an International Conference to proffer solutions on saving the drying Lake Chad. The Conference is scheduled for next month in Abuja.
Nigeria’s Water Resources Minister, Engr. Suleiman H. Adamu, disclosed this in Abuja when the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, paid him a courtesy visit.
Adamu stated that the main objective of the Conference was to find workable solutions in recharging the drying up of the basin. “In the next 50 to 100 years from hydrological perspective, if nothing is done now, the lives of the people of that region that depends on the lake as their source of livelihood would be in danger as the Lake faces extinction,” he said.
The Minister proposes for cheaper and workable solutions to saving the Lake from extinction. According to him, the MoU signed between, the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the POWERCHINA International Group Limited in April 2016 to save Lake Chad from drying up, can be actualized by the transfer of water from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad Basin.
Adamu said that study done by POWERCHINA, shows that it is technically feasible to transfer water from river Congo to Lake Chad thereby increasing the level of the Lake. This, according to him, would halt the receding of the Lake and the drying of the north basin due to climate change.
Earlier, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, said that the purpose of the high-level mission which was an informal consultation on political, human rights, humanitarian and development issues will help scale up UN presence in the North East in particular and Nigeria in general.
She said UN is more committed in the re-integration process ongoing in the North East as well as in the planned Conference of Saving Lake Chad that is scheduled for February, 2018. She charged Heads of States and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to consider passing the resolutions of the Conference in a communiqué to the African Union (AU) for further action.
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, and Lake Chad Basin Commission Executive Secretary, Eng. Sanusi Abdullahi should be congratulated for the planning of this important conference to save the shrinking Lake Chad. I have been advocating for two decades the urgent need to transfer water from the Congo River Basin to refill Lake Chad with TRANSAQUA; a mega infrastructure project to develop Africa, which will also be discussed at this conference.
Johnbosco Agbakwuru-Vanguard News
December 26, 2017
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has approved Nigeria’s hosting of an international conference on saving the Lake Chad. The conference according to the statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu is to revitalize the basin’s ecosystem for sustainable livelihood, security and development.
Shehu said it was the first time an international conference on Lake Chad was being organised the six-member countries of the region. He said, “The three-day conference will consist of two days of technical sessions and one day high level meetings between February 26-28, 2018 and it will take place in Abuja.
“The high level meeting is expected to have in attendance all of the Presidents and Heads of government of the member-states, namely Nigeria,Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Libya “The key partners coming together in hosting the conference are Nigeria, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC and relevant donors including, prospectively, the African Development Bank, AfDB, the World Bank and the governments of Germany, China, Canada and the European Union, EU.
“The main objective of the international conference is to create global awareness on the socio-economic and environmental challenges arising from the shrinkage of the Lake Chad, threat to livelihoods including insecurity with a view to developing a comprehensive program for action to save the lake from extinction.
“Specically, the conference is expected to discuss and develop consensus on the different options to restore Lake Chad, including the Inter-Basin Water Transfer project from the Ubangi River in Central Africa to the Lake Chad. “Experts, researchers and resource persons are expected to exchange knowledge and share information on water resources development and management in a crisis environment and to garner political and financial support for the restoration option identified for the restoration of the lake.
“Among the expected outcomes of the conference is a roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations of the conference that should lead to the restoration of the lake; restoration of fishing and irrigated farming as a way of alleviating poverty, strengthening climate resilience in the basin, creating employment,leading to reduction of terrorist activities and increasing the revenue of the population and that of the Lake Chad basin countries.
“The lake Chad Basin, which is shared by Algeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and the Sudan is about eight percent of the size of the African continent, with a population of about 40 million inhabitants. “Its surface area has shrunk from 25,000 square kilometers to just 2,500 sq.kms, roughly 10 percent of its original size.“This development has adversely affected the economic, social and cultural environment of the area.
As at today, the lake is a source of insecurity, instability, and the loss of livelihoods. Since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has used every available speaking opportunity at the international level to raise awareness of the need for action to save the Lake Chad.
The excerpts below are from a speech by Mr. Franco Persio Bocchetto, Foreign Director for Bonifica, S.p.A., Italy, the engineering firm that designed the Transaqua proposal in the1980s. It is an excellent presentation on a transformative infrastructure project to save the shrinking Lake Chad and develop the African continent.
We can be very optimistic, but due to the growth of the population, the long-term measures cannot be other than to think how to transfer large volumes of water from the Congo River Basin to Lake Chad.
Well, water transfer to drying up endorheic lakes is not merely a “nature conservation measure.” Environment and wildlife deserve to be protected—human beings, too. A drying endorheic lake is proof that the water resources in its catchment area are overexploited with respect to incoming run-off. transferring water from adjacent river basins that have surplus water flowing into the sea, is a way of increasing water availability, especially for agriculture, in the context of the increasing population and declining rainfall, and to restore wildlife.
When water is in short supply in a given place, either you bring it there, or people will migrate elsewhere. Near Lake Chad, there is an immense, scarcely populated
river basin, which discharges into the Atlantic Ocean an average of 40,000 cubic meters/second—the equivalent to 1,250 billion m3 /year. That discharge is 200 times the discharge of the Main River [in Germany], or 14 times that of the Rhine at its mouth. How much of this volume could be possibly and safely discharge of the Main River [in Germany], or 14 times that of the Rhine at its mouth. How much of this volume could be possibly and safely diverted into Lake Chad has yet to be studied.
Can we think of a “win-win” project, where all countries involved have their advantages, which is perhaps, one of the basic conditions for developing this project?
Bringing water from the Congo River Basin to the thirsty Chad region and increasing irrigated agriculture, restoring the lake, producing hydropower and improving inter-African transport and commerce, is the vision of this Transaqua Project.
A canal would have to intercept part of the discharge of the right-hand tributaries of the Congo River, and convey them across the watershed between the Congo Basin and the Chari Basin. The diverted flow would reach Lake Chad through one of the Chari tributaries, properly reshaped. A very preliminary estimate gives an amount up to 100 billion m3 /year could be diverted. That this less than 8% of the Congo discharge, ensuring thus the restoration of Lake Chad and irrigation of up to 3 million hectares.
In its fall toward Chad, the diverted flow could be used for hydropower production. Along the canal, a road should be built which would become the backbone of inter-African land transport. The hypothes is that the canal could also be suitable for navigation has been made. Those ideas stemming from the early 1920s, have been studied by Bonifica, and are presently being considered by the Lake Chad Basin Commission as a possible project for the future.
The idea of Bonifica is to transfer about 100 million cubic meters of water per year from the Congo River Basin to the Lake Chad and Sahel district. This is the Congo Basin as you can see in red, which is the alignment more or less of the canal. You cross the watershed and you go into the water catchment area of the River Chari.
What is important to note is that the Transaqua formula is not simply to replenish Lake Chad, but to give access to drinking water, revive agricultural activity, irrigation, fish farming, a navigable waterway, trade, transport, regulate flows, produce electric power, river ports, commerce, and road connections—thus creating an economic development system along the Transaqua waterway
Fishing is a major source of livelihood for millions of people in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: LCBC
Hopes have been revived for the 40 million people who depend on Lake Chad for their livelihoods following the signing last June in Hangzhou, China, of a deal between Chinese construction giant, PowerChina and the Italian firm, Bonifica Spa. However, the news was only made public at the beginning of this month.
Huge water transfer project
The agreement concerns the carrying out of feasibility studies on transferring 100 billion cubic metres of water per annum from River Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, to replenish the fast shrinking Lake Chad, a distance of 2,500 km. The project is also known as Transaqua. According to the website of Executive Intelligence Review, EIR magazine, the letter of intent was signed at a meeting between the executive of the two companies in the presence of the Italian Ambassador to China, Gabriele Menegatti
The recent deal between PowerChina and Bonifica Spa is sequel to the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, signed between PowerChina and the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on December 13, 2016. LCBC is made up of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, CAR. The MOU is for a period of four years, but can be extended after renegotiation by both parties.
The Transaqua project seeks to transfer water from River Congo to Lake Chad. Map by Schiller Institute
The agreement is “with a view to setting forth the principles of a technical and financial assistance arrangement towards the actualization of water transfer from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad,” LCBC website reported. PowerChina will fund the studies at the cost of 1.8 million US dollars, while LCBC will provide all necessary information and assistance.
Linking Central and West Africa
The MOU is to establish the basis on which the parties shall carry out further research on the Lake Chad Basin Water Transfer Project and other future projects in accordance with the Lake Chad Basin Water Charter, national legislations, regulations and practices of member countries. Additional research will be needed to strengthen climate change resilience in the Sahel and to raise the project into a continental infrastructure by opening up a new development corridor to link Central and West Africa.
The terms of the agreement between PowerChina and LCBC include the potential transfer of 50 billion cubic metres of water per annum to Lake Chad through a series of dams in DRC, Republic of Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. There is also the possible generation of 15,000-25,000 kilowatts of hydroelectricity through the mass movement of water by gravity.
Other benefits are developing irrigated land for crop and livestock farming covering 50,000-70,000 square km in the Sahel zones of Chad, north-eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Niger; and providing new infrastructure platform for industries and water transport.
The core idea is to increase the water quantity in Lake Chad, improve water flow conditions, alleviate poverty within the basin through socio-economic activities, meet the energy needs of towns and surrounding areas in DRC and Congo Brazzaville, and conduct in-depth environmental impact assessment studies.
Satellite maps show how fast Lake Chad waters have receded over the past decades. Maps by NASA
New Silk Road to Lake Chad
The Lake Chad Basin Commission resolved the issue of funding studies on water transfer by creating a new Silk Road to Lake Chad. PowerChina, one of the country’s largest multinationals that built the Three Gorges dam, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with LCBC last December.
PowerChina committed to finance the feasibility studies for the initial stages of Transaqua and eventually to build the infrastructure. The water transfer canal will be a navigable facility 100 metres wide and 10 metres deep, stretching from southern DRC to CAR’s northern border. The waterway will be flanked by a service road and eventually a rail line.
Lake Chad, once one of the greatest in the world, has receded fast in recent years as a result of less rainfall and harmful irrigation practices. Other unforeseen phenomena like the exodus of refugees and displaced populations fleeing the atrocities of the Boko Haram terrorist group have since arisen.
The recent deals between PowerChina, LCBC and Bonifica Spa have raised hopes for the 40 million people in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: LCBC
According to experts, only a robust measure like replenishing the lake’s water could spare the wetland – a food basket located between Central and West Africa – from total disappearance. Meanwhile, the impoverishment of the Lake Chad Basin has made it fertile ground for recruiting terrorists for Boko Haram. Although Transaqua offered a viable solution to the lake’s problems since the 1970s, Western nations and institutions showed little interest in funding the project.
Push by President Buhari
A shift occurred in May 2015 with the election of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. He came to power with a programme to develop national infrastructure, including implementing the water-transfer project for Lake Chad. At several international gatherings, President Buhari made the case for resolving the problems of Lake Chad and requesting Western nations to deliver on promises for financial assistance. He has also strongly oriented his government towards cooperation with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations.
Discussing the groundbreaking water agreement in The Nigerian Tribune newspaper last July 25, Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, noted that a similar project to move water from southern to northern China where some areas are semi-arid has been undertaken by the authorities. The Minister added that Nigeria is working with UNESCO to organize an international conference on Lake Chad in Abuja before the end of 2017 to rally support for Transaqua.
Role of LaRouche
Thanks to the fight taken up by LaRouche organization over the years and the initiators of Transaqua, the project is today becoming reality within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Executive Intelligence Review magazine and Schiller Institute in 2015 arranged the first meeting between LCBC and the brains behind Transaqua. This was followed in December 2016 by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between LCBC and PowerChina, and subsequent contacts between Bonifica Spa and the Chinese company.
The Boko Haram insurgency has led to the displacement of thousands of people, thereby aggravating the problems in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: Nigerian Tribune newspaper
Origin of Transaqua project
Transaqua was first developed by the Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, in the late 1970s.
River Congo is the second largest river in the world with an average 41,000 cubic meters of unused water emptied at short intervals into the Atlantic Ocean. Bonifica then estimated that 3-4 per cent of this quantity of unused water will be enough to replenish Lake Chad.
The project involved building of a 2,400 km canal from the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, (then Zaire) to intercept the right bank tributaries of River Congo through dams and reservoirs, and move 100 billion cubic metres of water per annum by gravity to Lake Chad. The project was given consideration by various stakeholders without much progress because of lack of interest or insufficient funding.
Several meetings were held between PowerChina and LCBC officials. Photo: LCBC
Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, a contributor to People’s Daily Online, is Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily newspaper in Cameroon. He is currently a China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC fellow.
Over recent weeks, there has been considerable, long-overdue international attention given to the horrific conditions for the people living in the nations of the Lake Chad Basin (LCB). Following last month’s visit by members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), on March 31, they issued a first-ever resolution respecting the state of the crisis of the LCB. Now, the most important challenge to be addressed is what long-term strategic policy will be adopted to transform the LCB region, to reverse its downward spiral of abject poverty, famine, and displaced persons from the conflict with Boko Haram. For those of us who understand the root causes of the crisis, it is clear that without a project design to refurbish the shrinking Lake Chad, all other efforts will be insufficient. Unfortunately, but all too consistently, the lack of strategic visionary thinking by policymakers in Washington DC and other Western capitals has contributed to the failure to address the underlying causes for this ongoing tragedy in the LCB. For the very first time, the proposal to create a canal to transfer water from the Congo River Basin to the LCB is being studied by ChinaPower. Due to the tireless efforts of many of us over decades, and the extension of China’s One Belt-One Road (OBOR) into Africa, the possibility exists to provide tens of millions of Africans living in the LCB with a better future.
Inadequate International Response to Humanitarian Crisis José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports the following conditions in the LCB nations: 11 million in need of food assistance, among them 6.9 million are severely food insecure, and 2.5 million people are displaced. In northeast Nigeria 5.2 million will be need of food, with 50,000 facing famine.
From March 2-7, the UNSC visited Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. On February 24, a total of $1.458 billion was pledged ($1 billion by Nigeria), at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. On March 31, the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2349 (2017), with 34 recommendations. These actions express a greater concern for the LCB region than previously, but avoid the supporting the most crucial requirement for long-term stability; replenishing Lake Chad. The resolution focuses primarily on defeating Boko Haram and ISIL, barely mentioning the effects of the shrinking Lake Chad in exacerbating the hardships in the region. It does little more than recognize that “promoting development and economic growth” is part of a comprehensive approach to combating violent extremism, while failing to make any recommendations of how to achieve such growth. Speaking on the resolution, Ambassador Tommo Monthe from the Cameroonian Mission to the UN does make the point that “regional countries understood that the military response, though essential, should be part of a holistic approach.” FAO Director da Silva notes that Lake Chad has lost 90% of its water mass since 1963, and has resulted in “devastating consequences on food security and the livelihoods of people” dependent on fishing and food production. His beggarly proposal is to save water through new irrigation techniques, but what is vitally needed is to create more water by recharging Lake Chad.
The Time for Transaqua has Arrived Over 35 years ago, Engineer Dr. Marcello Vichi designed a farsighted, breathtaking proposal to bring water to the arid Sahel; he called it Transaqua. His proposal was to divert 5-8% of the waters from the tributaries to the Congo River, which are presently unused, through a navigable canal reaching the Chari River that empties into Lake Chad. According to his calculations, this inter-basin water transfer project would increase the depth and area of the lake to its proximate 1963 level. As importantly, the canal would also function as an essential feature of an economic corridor between the Congo River Basin and Lake Chad Basin that would include generation of hydroelectric power, an increase in irrigated farmland, and expanded trade. Thus, the full potential of this great water-transfer infrastructure project would affect a significant portion of the entire continent when realized.
It is well understood that poverty, lack of food, high unemployment, and lack of meaningful economic activity are drivers for conflict, yet for over three and half decades the international community has never bothered to make the smallest expenditure for feasibility studies to examine the potential of Transaqua. The international community willingly spent billions of dollars on military counter-terror measures, billions more on humanitarian aid, while millions of lives were lost in unnecessary bloody conflicts, but refused to even consider a revolutionary new concept to develop the nations of the Sahel and Great Lakes.
The flame for this novel idea of Transaqua was kept alive until, finally, in December 2016, when ChinaPower signed an agreement with the Nigerian government and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) to conduct a $1.8 million feasibility study respecting a segment of the Transaqua design. Despite support by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Sansusi Abdullahi, Executive Secretary of the LCBC, to save Lake Chad by transferring billions of cubic meters of water, as opposed to the fallacious concept of simply conserving disappearing water, funding was not available until China’s intervention. ChinaPower’s actions regarding Lake Chad are paradigmatic of China’s approach to erecting infrastructure projects across the continent. Ask yourself: Who is funding and building the great expansion of railroads across Africa today?
The West Lacks Vision for Economic Growth Sadly, for the United States and the world, President Franklin Roosevelt was our last great leader who possessed the knowledge to generate new physical wealth by using American System methods of credit creation for funding great infrastructure projects. Perhaps surprisingly, it is Chinese Present Xi Jinping’s global development policy–OBOR or the New Silk Road–that most closely echoes Roosevelt’s commitment to economic growth. Western leaders, along with the citadels of global finance, are suffocating society with ideologically driven, narrow, short-term thinking, restricting their judgment of what is necessary and possible to transform the present into a better future.
The severe limitations of this ideologically attenuated mindset were revealed to this author at a day-long conference in Washington, DC on April 11. Sponsored by the US Institute for Peace (USIP), the Carter Center, and the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the speakers and specialized audience explored the theme and title of the conference: “Can China and the United States Find Common Ground with Africa.” Ambassador Mohamed Ibn Chambas opened the day-long proceedings, discussing the need to address the root causes of insecurity, the vital importance of Lake Chad, and the need to transfer water via a canal from the Congo River Basin. However, it was in the final panel: “Cooperating to Counter Violent Extremism in the Lake Chad Basin and Beyond” that the sharp difference in outlook between this author and most of those participating became publicly evident.
Mohamed Yakubu, Nigerian Defense Attaché, made the germane observations regarding the LCB and Nigeria: that Lake Chad is the only body of water in the Sahelian desert; the desert is moving south at the rate .6 kilometers per year; and that in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been most active, rates of illiteracy and poverty exceed 70%. Most relevant, were the comments by Yawei Liu, Director of the Carter Center’s China Program, who, in an earlier panel, emphasized that the OBOR was not a just a five- or ten-year program, but a fifty-year program, and that northeast Nigeria could be a place for US-China collaboration. While the representative from the US Department of State acknowledged that US-China relations are unexplored in the LCB, his main focus on collaboration was short-term humanitarian needs and countering Boko Haram. The USIP representative repeated that cooperation must be holistic, long-term, and provide stability, but did not provide an actual long-term strategic policy for such collaboration.
This author was able to challenge the conference attendees with a concrete proposal to advance China-US relations in Africa, which would alleviate the suffering of Africans in the LCB region. To wit: The US organizations present should support and collaborate with China for the realization of the Trasnaqua water-transfer project. This level of cooperation would solidify a strategic partnership by the two leading world powers to act for the “common aims of mankind” for the benefit of Africans. Since ChinaPower has already initiated the first step with its commitment to a feasibility study of Transaqua, it would be relatively easy for the US to advocate for and assist in bringing this transformative project to fruition, thus implicitly becoming part of China’s OBOR.
Regrettably, the moderator and panelists did not endorse this author’s proposal, or even respond. Their cold reaction displayed precisely the lack of vision that permeates the grossly deficient US policy toward the development of Africa. However, there is still time to seize this opportunity, if US policymakers adopt a new paradigm of thinking; one that is more closely aligned to China’s One Belt-One Road.