Italy has offered to donate €1.6m to a feasibility study into digging a 2,400-km-long canal that would channel water from the River Congo in central Africa to the much depleted Lake Chad in the Sahara.
The canal would be a navigable waterway 100m wide and 10m deep capable of carrying about 50 billion cubic metres of water a year. One idea is for a road and railway to run alongside it.
The offer was made this week by Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontesilli to the Lake Chad Basin Committee during the International Conference on Lake Chad held in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Satellite maps show how fast Lake Chad waters have receded over the past decades. Maps by NASA via People’s Daily)
China is also interested in participating in the scheme, and has offered to match Italy’s funding.
Some 30 million people depend on the water from Lake Chad, located at the junction of four countries, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The lake shrunk from 20,000 sq km in the 1960s to just 2,000 in 2002, although it has recently increased slightly in size.
The study into the "Transaqua" project would be carried out by Italian engineer Bonifica and PowerChina. The two companies signed an agreement to cooperate on the scheme in Hangzhou last year.
A map showing the route of the canal (Schiller Institute)
Transaqua was originally suggested by Bonifica in the late 1970s, and was also championed by Nigerian engineers in the 1990s.
One version of the plan would involve damming a tributary of the River Congo in the Central African Republic and digging a 2,400-km-long canal to the River Chari, which feeds Lake Chad.
A talk on the project given by Persio Boccetto, a director of Bonifaca, to the Schiller Institute can be seen here.
Top image: Lake Chad seen from above (Creative Commons)