Let us save Lake Chad

Let us save Lake Chad
Conference of donors for the regeneration of Lake Chad

Conference of donors for the regeneration of Lake Chad

On April 4-5, 2014, a conference was held in Bologna with the specific aim of facing the ecological disaster that Chad is victim of, namely the drying-up of Lake Chad and to collect funds to finance the five-year investment plan for its revitalization. The conference was the result of years of international cooperation at all levels and it had the privilege to host not only the most important actors of the African continent, but also eminent personalities of the Italian politics. In fact, the President of Mauritania and current President of the African Union, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, the President of the African Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the former President of Nigeria, Olusengun Obasanjo attended the conference. On the other hand, among the participants there were also Lapo Pistelli, Deputy Minister of Italian Foreign Affairs, Vasco Errani, president of the Emilia Romagna Region, Vincenzo Stingone, Quaestor of Bologna and Mario Ennio Sodano, Prefect of Bologna. The Chairman of the conference was the President of the UN-African Union working group, Romano Prodi, who is also the President of the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation. The latter has been the driving force of the renewed interest in Lake Chad. The reasons why Lake Chad is so fundamental for the local populations were best explained by Romano Prodi, who in his opening remarks pointed out that the Lake constitutes the most important hydrographic system of that region. During the last 50 years, the lake has lost 90% of its water resources, thus provoking not only en ecological disaster, but also a humanitarian one. The security and stability of the region is at stake, since its fragile equilibrium risks to be broken by extremist factions, international terrorists and in particular by the fight for the scarce resources, in a context where the population overcrowding will be a matter of serious concern in the near future. The international community has been trying several times to devise possible solutions and technical plans to revitalize Lake Chad, and the last significant effort is represented by the “Transaqua project”, which over thirty years ago envisaged the possibility of linking the near Congo river with Lake Chad. Today, the technical plan around which the conference revolved draws inspiration from the Transaqua project, but it is more far-reaching than its predecessor is. In fact, it deals not only with technical matters, such as the re-organization of the production systems and the rehabilitation of the actual irrigation systems, but also with political issues, like the improvement of the local governance and the creation of a permanent international cooperation, in order to assure a continuous supervision of the phenomenon. Thus, the only durable solution possible is one that takes into consideration the importance of Lake Chad for the African peoples and in which the local governments undertake their responsibility of revitalizing the area, under the auspices of the whole international community. The Bologna conference was a step towards such a solution and on April, 5th the “Declaration of Bologna” was finally approved, which represents the basis of the launch of the action plan which will be operative in the forthcoming meeting of the Commission of Lake Chad (CBLT) that will take place in July 2014. The Bologna Declaration demonstrates that a sustainable future for the Lake Chad region is possible only through the creation of partnerships between public and private actors willing to regenerate an environmental common good that represents the future of the African continent.