October 31, 2010 / 4:37 PM / 8 years ago

Europe must save shrinking African lake - Gaddafi

* Scientists say changing weather helping shrink Lake Chad

* If lake dries, 30 mln Africans will go to Europe: Gaddafi

* Says poverty driving people in region to join al Qaeda

N’DJAMENA, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Europe will be confronted with 30 million Africans trying to reach its shores unless it acts to stop climate change from depleting a lake on which they depend, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Sunday.

Scientists say changing weather patterns, along with growing populations and the construction of dams, are to blame for the shrinking of Lake Chad, which provides livelihoods for about 30 million people in surrounding countries.

“If Lake Chad dries up, there are about 30 million people who will be obliged to emigrate to Europe,” Gaddafi said at an international conference in Chad’s capital.

“The worst case scenario is that we will confront them in the middle of the (Mediterranean) sea,” he said. “If Europe does not want these 30 million people who live around Lake Chad to emigrate ... Europe has to save the lake.”

Gaddafi has said in the past that Libya is helping the European Union shoulder the burden of illegal immigration from Africa by intercepting boats carrying migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaddafi, who has been an outspoken critic of the developed world’s policies towards Africa, also said poverty in the region was driving local people to join Islamist militant groups that target Western interests.

Security experts say al Qaeda’s north Africa wing — which regularly kidnaps Westerners — recruits desperately poor tribesmen by offering them food and money, especially in Niger, which has been hit by drought and famine.

“People are joining in with terrorist acts because they are in need and they are poor,” said Gaddafi. “If there are (development) projects they will stay in their homes and they will have hope.”

The Libyan leader was speaking at a meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, a body whose job is to regulate water use in the area. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger and Nigeria are members of the commission. (Reporting by Salah Sarrar; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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