The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to announce the designation by Chad of its very large portion of Lake Chad, effective 11/01/02. This long-sought designation, officially named "Partie tchadienne du lac Tchad" (1,648,168 hectares, 14°20’N 013°37’E), comes within the framework of ongoing close cooperation among the Government of Chad, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Ramsar Bureau, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), IUCN-The World Conservation Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Following the publication of the Final Communique of the Lake Chad Basin Commission’s 10th Summit, July 2000, which expressed the intention of the heads of state to declare the Lake a transboundary Ramsar site, the WWF Living Waters Programme has been assisting the LCBC governments (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, and – soon - Sudan) in preparing for accession to the Convention and designation of their portions of the catchment as Wetlands of International Importance, within the context of the LCBC/GEF project on "Reversal of land and water degradation in the LCBC ecosystem". Presently Chad, Niger, and Nigeria are Contracting Parties to the Convention, and Cameroon and the C.A.R. are expected to join soon. The GEF project is intended to develop a viable management plan for the entire basin, within this transboundary collaborative context.
The ‘Chad portion of Lake Chad’ Ramsar site represents a vast expanse of water bordered on the northwest by a cordon of dunes, on the northeast by an "erg" of shifting sand dunes, and on the south by flat lowlands. Lake Chad is shared with Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, and the Chadian portion covers a great variety of wetland types, including open waters, islets and sandbanks, polders, oases and temporary and permanent "natron" or alkalai pools. The endorrheic lake, as the only expanse of water of similar magnitude in the Sahara, is of immense importance to all life in the region and fulfills most of the Ramsar Criteria. The site supports internationally important numbers of waterbirds and is essential for some 150 fish species, and is the only place in the country that supports the endemic Kouri Ox, which is threatened by extinction through interbreeding. The lake also regulates the variability of annual water supply, recharges groundwater, and helps to control flooding. Of 300,000 fisherpeople in Chad, more than half of them live around Lake Chad, and the production of spiruline ("blue algae") and natron is economically important., as is the raising of cattle, sheep, and camels, and some agriculture. Desiccation and sanding over are seen as the main threats.
The WWF office in Cameroon has been particularly instrumental in assisting Chad in preparing this important Ramsar designation. The Ramsar site diploma is being presented today, 14 January, by Ramsar’s Anada Tiéga at ceremonies as part of the ministerial meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.