Lakes of Ounianga UNESCO World Heritage site: Reforesting Oases and Gaining Land

The Site Management of the Lakes of Ounianga World Heritage site uses the funds of the Special Programme #SOSAfricanHeritage to reforest oases and to better protect the local population from Covid-19.

The programme

The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for cosmopolitanism and sustainability as well as cultural diversity.

All 22 projects

The site comprises eighteen interconnected lakes in the Sahara, covering an area of 62,808 ha. It is an exceptional natural landscape of great beauty with striking colours and shapes. The salt, hypersalt and freshwater lakes are fed by groundwater and are located in two groups 40km apart: Ounianga Kebir comprises four lakes, whose highly saline waters are home only to algae and some micro-organisms. The second group, Ounianga Serir, comprises fourteen lakes separated by sand dunes. Floating reed covers almost half of the surface of these lakes and reduces evaporation. With their high-quality fresh water, some of these lakes are home to aquatic fauna, especially fish. Because of their geographical location, the natural heritage site is threatened by shifting sand dunes, which threaten not only the lakes but also the palm gardens in the oases that provide the local population with food and commercial products.

Restrictions due to the Pandemic

Thanks to the income from tourism, the World Heritage site has been able to take regular measures against the silting up of the oases and reclaim agricultural land. Now, with the pandemic and the borders closed, this source of funding has dried up and there is no government subsidy. As a result, the protection measures that are regularly implemented by the population and site management to maintain the integrity of the site have been halted.

Remedy through Effective Management

The aim of the funded project is to strengthen the operational capacities of the local population and site management so that they can continue their site protection and income generating activities despite the negative impacts of Covid-19. Regular meetings and tours to and around the lakes will be organised. Fences will be installed and the oases will be reforested with plants adapted to the dry environment to further combat lake siltation. Part of the project is also to inform the local population about Covid-19 and to provide them with appropriate protective equipment.

The consortium

On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. The German Commission for UNESCO is part of the consortium of the fund with its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage.

The International Relief Fund

The project to be funded

  • Site: Lakes of Ounianga
  • Country: Chad
  • Type of site: UNESCO World Heritage (natural heritage)
  • Year of inscription: 2012


Website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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