Lake Chad Drying Up


Lake Chad (European Space Agency)

Climate, Conflict and Water

GPM # 29

In response to the heightening climate crisis, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres warned last week that humanity has “opened the gates of Hell” and is “hurtling towards disaster, eyes wide open.”

Days before, a team of scientists spelled out humanity’s predicament in drier fashion. Six out of nine planetary systems key to the survival of the human species are under threat, they report, breaching the estimated boundaries of Earth system stability and resilience and pushing our planet “well outside of the safe operating space for humanity.”

The GPM spoke with the lead author of the report, Katherine Richardson. Richardson is principal investigator at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate and Professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of Copenhagen. She co-authored the groundbreaking 2009 study that introduced the Planetary Boundaries/Safe Operating Space concepts.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Listen to our complete conversation here:


Lake Chad is drying up.

Poised at the spot where Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria meet, the freshwater body has lost an estimated seventy percent of its volume due to water extraction — from the lake itself and its upstream sources — and as the result of climate change.

Courtesy: Nidhi Nagabhatla

Several inter-basin water transfer projects have been put forward to restore the lake, involving Italian and Chinese investors, the African Union and a host of international development institutions.

The biggest project, on the drawing board since the 1970s, would involve the creation of a 2400-kilometer-long canal between Lake Chad and the Congo River, with power generation stations along the way.

Another proposal envisions a shorter canal between the lake and a pair of reservoirs to be built on a tributary of the Congo River, the Ubangi. Opposed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and European scientists, both projects remain on the drawing board.

Their potential impact on one of Africa’s most endangered wetland ecosystems, and on the livelihoods of fishers and pastoralists along Lake Chad’s shores, continues to be the subject of study and debate.

Nidhi Nagabhatla has been studying the various ‘discourse coalitions’ on one side and other. Nagabhatla is a Senior Research Fellow in the Climate Change and Natural Resources program at United Nations University and an Adjunct Professor at the School of Earth, Environment & Society at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Listen to our conversation in today’s podcast. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Listen to our complete conversation here: