By Patrick Brogan
Extreme poverty and environmental conditions are combining to displace many Africans in the Lake Chad area and the knock-on effect has been felt in Europe, too. We watched many sub-Saharan people cross the Mediterranean and while many proposed closing European borders from what David Cameron referred to as swarms, the reality of the situation means that these people will risk their lives to get away because it is better than starving to death or being murdered by extremists.
Over 30 million people live in the Lake Chad region of Africa. The body of water stretches out over the borders of Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon and is close to the state of Niger. Many people depend on the Lake Chad basin for sustenance and it is hugely important for the economy of those countries.
There is a major geographical trait that is causing the lake to shrink. This is one of the few lakes in the world that does not connect to the sea and is fed through a network of small tributaries. The increased economic hardships are forcing more and more people to use the lake and it is depleting quicker than it can replenish itself. This activity has meant that in 30 years Lake Chad has shrunk by 95% and at the same time rainfall has decreased by 15%.
Many people in the region are now living on just one meal a day or starving to death. Famine and extreme poverty usually led to wars or infighting and here is no different. Groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have all risen in significance. Indeed, we discussed in a recent article why the US is in this region and it focuses on these organisations and the pan-Sahel arrangement to weaken the terror groups in countries such as Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad itself. This has meant people fleeing to make-shift camps consisting of rickety houses without any sanitation.
Economic conditions may have helped create these these terrorist organisations, but they help make them worse, thus it becomes a vicious cycle. In certain areas, crops can only be grown to one metre for fear of terrorists hiding within them and fertiliser is banned because it could lead to bombs being made. All of this has contributed to one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. No wonder these people are willing to risk their lives crossing the sea. For more on these conditions there is this article.
Italy has a strong history of reclaiming unusable land for agriculture. An engineering company called Bonifica is behind a huge project that will refill Lake Chad. Perhaps it is no surprise that it is an Italian company behind this. Italy is at the forefront of the surge in migrants and they feel they are not getting enough assistance from the EU.
The company is suggesting taking 3-4% of water from tributaries in Congo and the Central African Republic will be enough to refill the Chad and supply energy needs, too. Although they had the solution, the Italians were finding it difficult to get funding. That was until the Chinese stepped in. They have agreed to fund this under their belt and road initiative. This is part of their win-win policy which many African countries are finding more appealing than America’s bomb-the-shit-out-of-you-till-we-get-what-we-want strategy.
This will become the world’s biggest water redirection project and the Italians will have the aid of CTGC, the company behind the Three-Gorges Dam, a dam so large it is actually impacting on the earth’s orbit. The project is not without its critics, particularly in the UK, who said it will be bad from the environment. This was dismissed as “neo-Malthusian bullshit”. Strange, that, from a country so concerned about swarms of migrants. It’s almost like Britain and the West profit from the perpetual poverty of the developing world.
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