Lake Chad is the remnant of a much larger lake known as Mega-Chad which 22,000 years ago drained a greener Sahara and was three times the size of Lake Victoria, now Africa's largest lake, WWF noted.
"It is now the focal point of life in a huge expanse of arid Sahelian Africa. Technically best described as an inland delta, the new internationally protected wetland covers 2.6 million hectares vital to countless birds as well as endangered otters, gazelles and elephants. The Lake is also home to hippopotamuses and Nile Crocodiles."
Lake Chad basin is home to over 20 million people with the majority dependent on the lake and other wetlands for their fishing, hunting, farming and grazing. But the basin is recognized as highly challenged by climate change, desertification and unsustainable management of water resources and fisheries, according to WWF.
Since the early 1960s, rainfall over the basin decreased significantly while irrigation increased dramatically over the same period, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. "The lake is especially susceptible to climatic variability as it is rather shallow, with an average depth of 4.11 meters [13.48 feet]. As a result of decreased rainfall and increased water usage, the extent of Lake Chad decreased by 95 per cent over roughly 35 years," UNEP says on its "Atlas of Our Changing Environment"
"Lake Chad is one of the largest and most important of the vital watering points for migratory birds from Europe and west Asia that each year cross the Sahara and it is also where many of them stop and stay for the winter,
Nigeria has about 5 500 km2 (25 percent) of the area of Lake Chad, where 3 000 full-time fishermen are estimated to operate. Some 56 000 t of fish enter Nigeria from the lake each year, but the actual production from the Nigerian portion of the lake is probably only 28 000 t.
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