Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa cause tension with Nigeria

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A cow named 'Fine': star of the Paris International Agricultural Fair

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Mixed signals from US administration on China's currency

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Students blockade Paris schools to protest suspected police rape

Read more

ACROSS AFRICA

Displaced people in South Sudan suffer from untreated mental disorders

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Somalia's president asks Al Shabaab to lay down their weapons

Read more

THE DEBATE

Borderline Politics: US-Mexico relations hit a wall (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Borderline Politics: US-Mexico relations hit a wall (part 2)

Read more

FOCUS

Arms race: Delegations eye lucrative deals at Abu Dhabi military fair

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

Latest update : 2009-12-07

Is Lake Chad disappearing ?

With the attention of the world fixed on the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, France 24 correspondents Melissa Bell and Hélène Frade travelled to Chad to take a closer look at its shrinking lake.

The first thing that strikes you about Bol on the North Eastern shore of Lake Chad is how terribly far from anywhere else it actually is. Far enough from the four capitals of the countries that border the lake as the crow flies, but even further when you take into account the sandy consistency of the road that connects it to the closest of those cities, N'djamena.

 
A fact, perhaps, that goes some way to explaining the second thing that strikes you about Bol- that it isn't what you might expect after reading many of the recent articles in the international press devoted to the shrinking of Lake Chad. What you expect to find, having read them, is a village once built on the Lake but now about 30 kilometers from the water's edge. What you actually find is a village that still sits very close to the water. The old timers will tell you that the water level has fallen but by far less than 30 kilometers. Now, in this part of the world, old timers tend to be fairly hard to come by, but we got lucky and met several on our journey. The first one we met, in Bol, showed us where the water had stood in his youth. And the line he pointed to in the sandy ground, was only a few dozen meters from where the water sits now.
 
But Bol is a long way away. A long way from the journalists and climatologists and politicians, currently taking an interest in the area. And so perhaps it is not that surprising that it is not terribly accurately described. But there is a more worrying possibility. That conclusions are not only being drawn but actively sought about parts of the world that seem to suggest that something worrying is going on but about which we actually don't know a great deal.
 
From Bol, we headed into the lake itself and onto its many islands. The old men we met- and living memory is just about all you have to go on in these parts- all told a tale of retreating water, rising grasses and depleted fish stocks. Problems with huge consequences in a part of the world where life and survival are so intimately linked with the water. Problems made worse by the corrupt men in uniform- a sort of indisctinct mass of military men, policemen, customs officers and plain old crooks dressed up as officials- who continue to take their various taxes and levies from a population often at the end of its tether.
 
Problems a million miles away from the experts' debates and politicians' solutions. Among them- the deviation of the waters of the oubangui river into the chari river and on into lake Chad. A solution not yet properly investigated although already hailed as the answer to the lake's problems.
 
In fact no one knows what effect such a scheme would have on the fragile ecosystems of Lake Chad. A lake, it must remembered, that has shrunk and has grown before. A lake famous for its variations. A lake it is all too easy to take as proof of climate change. A lake that deserves first and foremost to be better understood. 

 

By Melissa BELL , Hélène FRADE

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-02-16 Asia-pacific

Thailand still mourning its beloved King Bhumibol

He was the world’s richest monarch – wealthier than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II - and the longest-serving, spending 70 years on the throne. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej,...

Read more

2017-02-09 Africa

Rose Nathike: S. Sudan athlete’s race for a better life

For Rose Nathike, running is a way of life. First the South Sudanese athlete ran to flee the war in Sudan. Then she trained at her refugee camp in northern Kenya. Finally she...

Read more

2017-02-02 jihad

Video: Jihad Sisters, French women bound for ISIS

France 24 brings you an exceptional documentary in partnership with French TV news magazine "Envoyé spécial", on the hidden women of the jihadist web, the "sisters" of the...

Read more

2017-01-26 Asia-pacific

Flight MH370: Families of missing passengers search for the truth

It’s a unique case in the history of modern aviation. Nearly three years after its disappearance, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, has still...

Read more

2017-01-19 Burundi

Burundi: Fear and Exile

When Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a controversial third mandate in April 2015, he sparked a major crisis and many demonstrations. Since...

Read more