Uplifting tales of Hoffmann

Posted on 15 December 1998
Gland, Switzerland - As leaders from five African countries prepare to meet in Chad this week, WWF, the conservation organization, warned the outcome of the meeting could be crucial for the future of the continent's most endangered wetland, Lake Chad.

At this week's meeting, leaders from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, along with the Central African Republic, whose Chari River is the main source of water to the lake, will specifically address the crisis facing Lake Chad. One of Africa's most precious sources of fresh water, Lake Chad is the continent's fourth largest body of water, supporting more than 20 million people in four countries. In 1960, it covered about 25 thousand square kilometres - in the last 40 years it has shrunk by 80 percent and now covers an area of only two thousand. Mounting threats to the lake include drought, climate change and unsustainable water management. "The first step to turn the crisis around is to designate the lake a wetland of international importance," said Martin Tchumba of WWF-Cameroon. "Countries must also adapt legislation to ensure the long-term conservation of the Lake Chad Basin."

In the move towards designating the lake a wetland of international importance, WWF hopes the countries attending the meeting will agree to carry out an inventory of the biodiversity of the lake, and a complete assessment of the natural resources the lake offers to surrounding communities, which rely on fishing and trade for their livelihoods. One major problem they face is invasive carpets of grass which now cover up to half of the lake's surface, making navigation impossible. Unsustainable water management, including dyke-building and the lack of proper irrigation systems and resulting salt accumulation in the soil, exacerbate this problem.

"We wish to see a situation where the ecosystem is restored and stabilized and where all the users participate in achieving the goal of free, easy access to water resources," said Abubakar Jauro, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Already, those living around Lake Chad's shores are just some of the more than one billion people globally who lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. WWF's Living Waters Campaign wants to assist the region's governments in this vital freshwater action and to promote sustainable agricultural and fishing projects.

For further information:
Lisa Hadeed, tel: +41 22 364 9030, mobile: +41 79 372 1346, email: lhadeed@wwfint.org Shaleen Russell, tel: +41 22 364 9553, mobile: +41 79 477 3553, email: srussell@wwfint.org

A Video News Release on the Lake Chad Summit is available from WWF. Contact: Tanya Petersen tel: +41 22 364 9565, email: tpetersen@wwfint.org