The Water Transfer Project from the Ubangi River to Lake Chad which was identified as a priority project in the Master Plan for « the Environmentally Sound Management of the Natural Resources of the Conventional Basin », falls in line with the restoration strategy of the Lake Chad, which is of paramount importance for the entire region.
The initial objectives of this project include:
- Halting the shrinkage of Lake Chad through an inflow of water coming from the Congo basin aiming at gradually restoring the normal ecological level;
- Supporting the socio-economic activities: irrigation, fishing, livestock, potable water supply to alleviate poverty;
- Building a multipurpose dam in the Palambo region, which will support the minimum flow for the regulation of the navigation on the Ubangi River and the hydropower generation in a bid to meet the energy needs of the city of Bangui and the surrounding areas of the two Congo.
- Stimulating the navigation on the lake Chad, the Chari River, the development of a canal which could connect the Chari, Logone, Mayo-Kebbi, Benue up to the Niger River in order to open up the Central Africa region located between the south of the CAR and the north of the DR Congo and Congo.
The conduct of the feasibility study was entrusted to a Canadian Firm, CIMA International, which started its works on the 13th October 2009 for a period of 28 months as opposed to the initial schedule of 23 months. The works related to the environmental impact assessment on a part of the Congo River, which were recommended by CICOS, were integrated in the initial study through a contractual amendment. This EIA was conducted as part of a harmonised feasibility study. The funding of this study worth 5.5 Million US$ was fully covered by the LCBC member countries.
During the study, the Consultant realised that in addition to the initial transfer option of a part of the waters of the Ubangi River from Palambo, there can be an inter-basin transfer from the Kotto River ( a tributary of the Ubangi River) at the upstream of the city of Bria in the CAR. This new option is located at the end of the layout of the Transaqua project proposed by the Italian firm BONIFICA.
All the transfer scenarios were reviewed for these options notably the gravity transfer, the pumping transfer or the combination of the two options based on the dams which will be built on the specific water courses. Apart from the technical aspects, the study covered the legal and institutional aspects, the geopolitical and communication context, the organisation of the public hearings on the major issues of the project and the environmental issues notably the environmental impact assessment of both basins, the funding plan of the facilities and the management plan of the debt, the socio-economic development programmes and the development plan of the navigable ways.
At the end of the feasibility study, the major conclusions are as follows:
The water transfer is technically feasible from the Congo basin via the Ubangi River to Lake Chad through a combined interbasin transfer: a pumping transfer via the Palambo dam on the Ubangi River and a gravity transfer via the Bria dam through a deviation of the Kotto River. This will increase the water level of the lake by 1 m in the south basin and 1m in the north basin (increase of the size of the lake by 5, 500 km2).
The economic analysis of all the results obtained proves that :
- it is economically profitable to transfer water using the two inter-basin transfer scenarios;
- the most profitable transfer scenario is the gravity transfer from the Bria/La Kotto dam with an economic rate of return estimated at 24.83% and a net discounted value worth 3, 980,3 Billion CFA F;
- the sale of the hydropower generation in the two dams is a profitable operation at the financial level with an internal rate of return estimated at 32.5%.
Regarding the connection Chari-Logone-Mayo-Kebbi-Benue, the major results of the study reveal that it is not economically realistic to make this stretch navigable for the crafts other than the canoes without a transfer from the Logone River. In fact, the water courses are small and there are falls, sediments and invasive plant species.
In addition to the conclusions of the project, the Consultant recommended to LCBC the in-depth studies of two alternative solutions, notably 1) the improvement of the hydraulicity of the tributar
In addition to the conclusions of the project, the Consultant recommended to LCBC the in-depth studies of two alternative solutions, notably:
- the improvement of the hydraulicity of the tributaries of the Lake Chad, notably the Chari River. This will enable to halt the losses in the floodplains and increase the quantity of water meant to Lake Chad. This operation will be carried out by the dredging, the stabilisation of banks , the construction of the dykes, the setting up of a system , which maintains water supply in the wetlands (culverts, water gates, weirs) ;
- the development of Lake Chad through the de-silting programmes, the fight against the shoreline erosion and the invasive plant species.