This letter will appear in the New Yorker’s January 15, 2018 print edition.
Ben Taub, in his article on the decline of Lake Chad, didn’t mention the role of upstream dams and diversions (“The Emergency,” December 4th). Nigeria’s Hadejia-Nguru wetlands, which flow into Lake Chad’s catchment area, have shrunk by two-thirds in the past thirty to forty years, because of dams, irrigation developments, and drought. When water sources dry up, hunger, displacement, and radicalization follow. Lake Chad is no exception: the disruption of local livelihoods is exacerbating regional insecurity. Restoring traditional economies through fair and equitable water management is necessary in order to restore peace to the area. Politicians in Nigeria and regional governments could immediately work to restore flows to Lake Chad by replacing water-hungry hydropower plants with wind and solar plants, and by promoting technologies and drip irrigation to reduce diversions of water. As our water supply becomes increasingly unpredictable, governments must collaborate to manage rivers and wetlands across political borders, both for the health of the watersheds and for the well-being of millions of vulnerable people who depend on them.
Executive Director, International Rivers