Chad’s tourism and culture minister wrote to Unesco, the body which awards the world heritage designation, asking to “postpone the process of registering Lake Chad on the world heritage list”.
The letter says the government “has signed production-sharing agreements with certain oil companies whose allocated blocks affect the area of the nominated property”.
If Chad decides to go ahead with oil exploitation, the process would have to be cancelled all together, Unesco said.
“We cannot give up on this process, we owe it to future generations,” said Hamissou Halilou Malam Garba, Niger’s deputy director of wildlife, hunting, parks and reserves. “The lake is a shared resource, no country can do it alone. It would be profoundly unfair”.
About 45 million people live off the lake’s resources and call its 942 islands and its shores home.
“It’s a vibrant cultural environment, with unique diversity and political, social and economic systems that are not well known,” says Sébastien Moriset from the International Centre for Earth Construction in Grenoble, who worked on putting together the nomination proposal documents. “For example, tens of thousands of people live with no jail, no police … there is so much we can learn. Yet it is also very fragile. They have no one to represent them,” he said.