Chad - 2.5 Chad Waterways Assessment


Chad Waterways


Chad’s waterways consist primarily of three main bodies of water: the Logone and Chari rivers, and Lake Chad. Despite the importance of Chadian waterways to  economic activity and cross-border trade, there is no organized river and or lake transportation network. Activity on Chadian waterways is exclusively informal.   

Logone and Chari Rivers 

Chad's major rivers are the Chari and the Logone, which flow from the southeast into Lake Chad in the west. The river network is little developed and especially dependent on the seasons. The Chari is approximately 1,400 kilometres long and is a tributary of Lake Chad while the Logone is approximately 1,000 kilometres and is a tributary of the Chari. The Chari provides 90 percent of the water flowing into Lake Chad and the watershed of the river covers 548,747 square kilometres. Due to seasonal variations, the Logone is navigable roughly 2 months out of the year while the Chari is navigable almost permanently downstream from N'Djamena, and 4 months per year from Sarh to N'Djamena. 

Other notable rivers in Chad 


  • Pendé  

  • Mbéré 

  • Bahr Erguig 

  • Bahr Salamat 

  • Bahr Azoum 

  • Ouadi Kadja 

  • Ouham  

  • Nana Barya 

  • Bahr Kéita 

  • Ko 

  • Bragoto  

  • Bahr Aouk (Aoukalé) 

Lake Chad 


Lake Chad is a freshwater lake located east of the African Sahel and on the southern edge of the Sahara surrounded by four different countries (Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria). The lake is of significant economic importance to the inhabitants of the region regarding basic access to fresh water and the local fishing industry. Despite Lake Chad experiencing significant surface area variation for centuries, evidence suggests that the lake has shrunk considerably since the 1960s.  


In 1963, Lake Chad was estimated to have an area of 25,000 km2. The most recent estimate (2020) approximates a surface area of 1,540 km2. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the reasons for the shrinking of the lake (over-use by governments and local communities, rainfall patterns shifting, and sea surface temperature changes), the livelihoods of those dependent on the Lake is becoming increasingly threatened. Currently, the only protected area is the Lake Chad Game Reserve, which covers half of the area next to the lake that belongs to Nigeria. Efforts by the Chadian government to protect the lake are minimal because of the potential opportunities for economic extraction. In 2020, to explore oil and mining opportunities in the region, Chad's tourism and culture minister asked UNESCO to postpone the process of registering Lake Chad on the world heritage list.  

Apart from Lake Chad, there is also the Fitri, Iro, Lere, Tikem, and the two Ounianga lakes. Oases are scattered in the desert zone in the north.  

Waterway Transport  

Most transport activities are provided by canoes (manual or motorized) of fifteen to twenty meters long and a maximum load of about 40 tons. Navigation conditions are difficult, and costs can be high due to constant obstruction of waterways. The “Union des transporteurs fluviaux” based in Bol and Bagasola has a fleet of boats and are willing to complete trips throughout the Lac region. The loading bay is in Guite and depending on the season and the type of boat, the cargo could reach Bol and/or Bagasola within one to two days. See section 4.3 Chad Port and Waterways Company Contact List for more details.  



Despite widespread informality on the management and maintenance of the river system in Chad, a river security post between Cameroon and Chad exists. Policemen from both countries are tasked with controlling the eight security posts along the fluvial border from Bongor in the south through Ndjamena to Lake Chad. 

Lake Chad Basin 

The Lake Chad Basin grapples with various security threats ranging from banditry, abduction, and robbery to terrorism, and food insecurity. The militant organization Boko Haram is quite active in the region limiting the ability of the government to build state capacity and humanitarian organizations to reach vulnerable populations in need.  

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