• Kees Kibinda

The Grand Transaqua Project

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Lake Chad in Chad has been diminishing for several decades and has lost 90% of the water it once had. In order to keep the region stable and even industrialise the area; the world's biggest water project has been put on paper. In theory, this project will better the livelihood of a region in Africa that spans 12 countries and is 1/4th the size of Africa in land mass.



When I create content, I do so with some goals in mind. I intend it to be insightful, useful, that it grabs your attention and keeps you entertained. I also hope to get a reaction from my viewer base and love it when they come to me with suggestions on topics to cover. This prayer was answered when Mr Owen Wall asked me to investigate in the Grand Transaqua Project.


What is the Grand Transaqua project? It is the biggest water project in the world. This project takes us to Lake Chad, which is “surprisingly” in Chad. The issue with Lake Chad is that it relies on rainfall to replenish its waters. Sadly, at this point, more water is being irrigated or taken out than the rainfall can replenish. As a result, 90% of the lake has dried up till date. The outcome is a catastrophe as the Lake Chad Basin supports around 30 million people in the region.


The origins of this project can trace itself back to Christian quarters. In fact, the industrial group that dreamed up this project, worked under the inspiration of the Vatican. In the 1960s Pope Paul VI launched a drive for the means of providing industrialisation of the developing sector. He is the author of the groundbreaking encyclical Populorum Progression which spoke of his policy outlook. That of which was quite simple and straightforward: the new name for peace is development.


The Bonifica Group was sold to the Italian Institute for Industrial Reconstruction; the industrial holding for state industries, which was the vehicle for post war reconstruction in Italy. The actual concept of Transaqua was the brainchild of Antonio Lesina. Lesina was formerly a functionary of The European Community which should not be confused with the European Union.


The plan wants to kill 4 birds with one stone. The planned Lagos-Mombasa Trans-African Highway will run for over 6000 kilometers and will connect the Indian Ocean with the Atlantic. The Lagos-Algiers Trans-Sahara Highway, which is practically already in operation despite not being fully completed yet, will link with the Gulf of Guinea as well as the Mediterranean.


The second bird will cast one’s mind back to the historical figure of a chap by the name of Cecil Rhodes. He dreamt of having a railway starting down in Southern Africa in a town called Cape Town reaching all the way to the top in Cairo, East Africa. The Transaqua Project comes close to realising that goal, except that it will not be done by means of a railway. Instead, it will be through a river way that will connect several African countries.


The aim is to connect the markets of vast African enclaves such as that of Rwanda, Burundi, the Kivu region, the whole extreme north eastern part of Congo, as well as the Central African Republic. Linked should also be consumer centers of central African countries such as Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda. The two Ocean ports of Lagos and Mombasa should link each other as well through the Transaqua Project to ensure trade flows outside of Africa.


The project aims to trigger a practical start to economic integration. In fact, the great waterway would irrigate between 50 to 70 thousand kilometers in the Sahel. This region is on the territory of 8 countries, namely: Cape Verde (surprising right, since it is an island?), Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso (whose name was Upper Volta at the time this plan was drawn), Niger and Chad.


10 countries would be beneficiaries of the transport system. These countries are: Niger, Nigeria, Chad, The Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya. Together, they account for 1/4th of the land mass in Africa. That is a huge piece of land!


The third and obvious bird to kill is that of the filling up of Lake Chad.


The fourth and last bird to kill with this colossal stone is the generation of hydro power in the region.

There is just a minute problem that needed to be fixed to get that last bird killed: getting the water from the Congo river into the Chad basin. You see, the water would have to travel uphill and the building of a canal would be out of the question. Also, pumping the water up through a pipeline would have cost too much in terms of energy and dimensions.


That is when the Bonifica team had a eureka moment; an epiphany. They concluded that instead of carrying the water directly from the Congo river to the top, the would instead go to its west bank tributaries at a higher altitude, starting in the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and reaching by means of gravity, the Central African Republic – Chad watershed. From there, at an elevation of 500 meters, the water would be channeled into the Chari River; a tributary of Lake Chad.


As a result, a channel spanning a stretch of 2400 kilometers could, be built; crossing all the west bank tributaries along the Congo River. This would enable the people in the region to build reservoirs and dams.


Once the channel is built; it can pass up to a 100 billion cubic meters of water per annum to refill Lake Chad. It is estimated that only half of that amount is needed to replenish the lake. This means that the rest of that water, once Lake Chad has been replenished, is available to irrigate land that is twice the size of Lake Chad in its replenished state.


That is a humongous piece of land or body of water, whichever way you want to look at it.

Furthermore, by building water reservoirs and dams on every tributary, the river flow will be aided in being regulated. This enables agricultural extension, as well as hydro electricity generation. Akon would be very proud.


On top of that, by building these dams and water reservoirs on every tributary, taking water from just one tributary or source would be prevented and instead bits and pieces will be taken from all tributaries; like a trickledown effect. This causes little to no impact on the navigability, as well as the fishing that would go on in the rivers. That is the theory.


The waterway itself will be navigable and will be 100 meters wide and 10 meters deep. It will stretch from the southern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to the Northern border of the Central African Republic (CAR). The waterway will be flanked by a service road, which is necessary for the construction of the waterway and the service road could at a later stage be turned into a railway. Also, in the CAR itself, a big water reservoir will be built.


At this stage of the article I suggest you replenish yourself with some water before continuing 😉.


What are the Pros and Cons of this project?


Pros

The Congo River is the second largest river in the world. An average discharge of 41 cubic meters per second flows unused into the ocean. Bonifica calculates that 3-4% of that amount is needed to replenish Lake Chad.

There is a potential generation of 15 to 25 million KWH of hydroelectricity.

Possible irrigation of 50-70 thousand kilometers square of land in the Sahel zone that will stimulate development in agriculture, industry, transport and electricity for up to 12 African countries that account for 1/4th of Africa’s total land mass.


The new silk road will have both the waterway and the railway line. This will help create a transport route from Central Africa all the way to West Africa.


Some of the area is currently known to be a breeding pot of Boko Haram recruits. Perhaps by bringing economic advancements, this recruitment activity will stop.


Cons


There is not enough information on how many lives can be influenced positively with this project.

There is not enough information on how the environment will be affected either positively or negatively with the creation of this canal.

There has not been any information given on the displacement of people and wildlife, which will happen once the canal is built.


There is no clear mention of a budget and what the costs will be in realising this project or where that money would be coming from.


If you can think of more pros and cons, please respond in the comment box below and perhaps we can do a follow up article on this subject.


The Transaqua project, once brought to life, is for now a cautiously optimistic story. The reason why is because I think that this project must face quite a number of challenges before it gets realised. Below are the major challenges that I foresee.


Let me start with Congo. From what I have read and gathered (both from articles and the comments to my YouTube video from Congolese), the country has a deep distrust of the Transaqua project. This project was thought of around a time when African countries were gaining their independence and it seems that this project was simply thrust upon Congo that this plan was simply going to be worked on without their voice or consent on the matter.


Instead, it would have been better if they had been included in the discussions so that they would feel a part of it. The citizens of the country feel that they are being robbed of their water even though Bonifica has stated that per second 41,000 cubic meters of water is flowing into the Atlantic Ocean unused.


Remember, it has also been stated that only 3-4% of this water currently flowing into the Atlantic Ocean is needed to replenish Lake Chad. It is of course hard to convince people with facts when emotions are in play. Especially when those facts come from people that you do not trust.


Secondly, very little has been said or to my knowledge been investigated on when it comes to the impact this project will have on the biodiversity and wildlife of the region. More time and effort need to be put into investigating this as well as on the displacement of people as a result of the canal and reservoirs that will be built.


There were two main countries that were spearheading and funding this project; namely Libya and Nigeria. We all know that Libya currently is a failed state unable to govern itself, let alone fund such a project. Nigeria has its own woos as well. President Buhari is a staunch advocate of the project, that goes without saying.


However, he is faced by challenges in the country because of his health; there is uncertainty over whether he will die in office, and he is up for reelection this year in 2019. As I am writing this article, the election date has been postponed by a week due to the violent deaths that have occurred in Nigeria recently. We can safely say that he is distracted and running out of steam to enable things to be set into motion to get started on this project. The opposition is also of the opinion that the money needed for this project can be used for other agendas.


Don’t forget that there are more countries involved in this project other than Nigeria and Libya, as there is a total of 12 involved. However, it does not seem like there is any form of cohesion between the countries to make this project happen and become a success. The 12 countries’ working together in implementing this project is a critical aspect towards making it a reality.


Another thing that I have not mentioned is a company called Power China. They are pumping in a considerable amount of money into this project. There seems to be distrust towards this company from both within Africa, as well as from the West.


They both question China’s motifs for wanting to finance this project. It is an open secret that there is a very thin line between the Chinese states and Chinese companies. Also, some countries have failed to pay back China’s loans and have had to give up strategic assets as collateral. I will leave it up to you, the reader, whether the distrust is justified or not. Kindly leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


What I will say is the following: China has pumped a significant amount of money into Africa in the last few years. Chad is no exception. Before China started pumping money into Chad, the latter was not doing too well. But once the money started coming in, they were able to work on their infrastructure and they have invested that money on things like their military.


This has come to good use because due to this investment, they have deployed their army in neighbouring countries to bring stability to those regions. China’s action of pumping money into Chad led to bringing more stability to the region. All things considered, this should be viewed as a positive outcome.


That being said; to keep the stability, it is necessary to tackle ongoing situations in the region and making sure that there is enough water is a high priority. If not; the region will be made unstable. China’s considerable investment into Chad will be put at risk if indeed they do nothing. Therefore, for the long term, it is a smart move to get to going on the Transaqua project.


In conclusion, my view on the project is that of cautious optimism. Why? Because I think that there are more pros than cons. However, the crux of the story is that in order for it to work, more research needs to be done on the impact to the biodiversity, wildlife and displacement of people in order to make an educated decision and I must emphasize that it is of the utmost importance that all 12 African countries as well as the interested stakeholders involved (such as China and the West) work together in a transparent manner.

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