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Level: Intermediate
The Shrinking Lake
A Introduction
You are going to read about an environmental
problem in this part of the world, Central
¦ What do you know about this part of the
world? What countries are in this area?
¦ What pressures are there on the environment in this
B Vocabulary
Look at this word list. Match the words on the left with the
definitions on the right.
struggle without external help
the financial means whereby one lives
famous extinct African bird
to reduce in size
to shrink
use of water in agriculture
sad, depressed
severe, sharp
reproduction in the animal world
to fend for oneself
a lot of, sufficient
to beset
water left on ground after rain
to trouble persistently
the art of making pots, vases, etc
C Reading
This is an article about a fisherman from Central Africa and the difficulties he
faces due to an environmental problem. As you read through the article,
underline the words from the previous exercise. Also underline any other
words you don't understand: you can ask your teacher about them afterwards.
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Level: Intermediate
C Reading
The Shrinking Lake
Margaret Rotham
Rikki Mbaza has a very English name but his part of central Africa is suffering from a
problem that few in England would have to put up with: a lack of rain so acute that
Rikki's livelihood is literally evaporating away.
"I would love to have the English weather here in Chad. Then the lake would not go
Rikki Mbaza lives in the town of Bol near the shores of Lake Chad, a lake that has shrunk
by 90% in the last 40 years. A lack of rain is only one of many culprits being blamed for
this emerging disaster.
"I am a fisherman. For me, it is like watching my life draining away every day. The
fishing is getting worse and worse in the lake. They are getting smaller and I think the
fish breeding has been disrupted by the reduction in area and in depth." Lake Chad is
only a meter deep in most places.
Rikki struggles now to provide enough food and income for his wife Achta and
their four children. Achta has had to take up pottery in her spare time in order
to try and boost the amount of money coming into the household every month.
"Our rent doesn't go down with the level of the lake unfortunately," Mbaza
complains. "We still have six mouths to feed but I need assistance from the
government. They have left me to fend for myself in a desperate situation."
While one can understand Rikki Mbaza's frustration with his government, his
accusatory tone is perhaps a little unfair. The Chad government has often
seemed like a powerless, rudderless boat caught in the storm of international
Angela Muscovite at the Center For African Politics at UCLA sees little reason
for optimism in the case of the shrinking lake in the African heartland. "The
story of Chad Lake is a modern day environmental tragedy. This is a body of
water that, in 1960 was over 25,000 km 2 in size - now it's less than 10% of
"It has been so over-exploited and it is an issue the whole international
community, obviously more so those governments in Africa, need to co-operate
on to find a resolution. And that isn't going to happen any time soon. By the
time it does, they'll be arguing over a puddle in the middle of the desert. It's
sad but that's how I see things panning out."
The guilty parties, as so often in these cases, blame each other for the
problems that now beset the lake. Charlie Vaughan, who teaches
Environmental Science at Cambridge University in Britain, explains why the
lake is going the way of the Dodo. "The main culprit is geography funnily
enough. Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon all lay claim to the waters of this
lake and you only need a five meter shoreline to be able to extract water from
it. The whole area has been a target for massive irrigation schemes over the
last couple of decades with each country's agricultural ministry blaming the
other three for the problems. In an area with plentiful rainfall, it wouldn't be so
much of a problem. This is a dry area."
None of this gesturing and buck-passing will help Rikki, Achta and their four
children in the near future. "I am learning how to fix cars. I don't think cars will
be disappearing soon and will certainly last longer than this lake will," muses
the glum-looking fisherman. "There won't be any more fishermen in this area
in ten years." And with that, he says he has to go and study how to remove
and repair brake pads.
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Level: Intermediate
D Reading Comprehension
Now look at these questions. For each, answer true or false or
donÓt know based on what you have read in the article.
1. Rikki has spent some time travelling in England.
2. The lack of rain is not the only cause of the lakeÓs reduction in
3. RikkiÓs town, Bol, is further from the lake than it used to be.
4. Lake ChadÓs disappearance is causing financial pressures for RikkiÓs
5. Rikki feels the government should help him more.
6. Angela Muscovite wants the Chad government to save the lake.
7. She thinks action will come too late to save the lake.
8. Charlie Vaughan says permission to extract water is given too easily.
9. The demands of agriculture have been largely responsible for the lakeÓs
10. Rikki will work in a garage when the fishing becomes too bad.
E Game
There are many environmental problems in the world. Now you will have the
chance to speak about them!
You will work in groups. Your teacher will give you all a piece of paper with an
environmental problem written on it.
¦ The first member of the group must speak about this problem for about
20 seconds.
¦ Then, the next member of the group has to carry on speaking about the
same subject.
¦ The teacher will tell your group to stop speaking after about one minute.
Do not repeat what the other members of your group say!
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Level: Intermediate
Teacher Notes
Target Language: Discussing the environment, reading
Duration: 70 minutes
1 Structure and Timing (all times approximate)
A. Introduction (10 minutes)
B. Vocabulary (15 minutes)
C. Reading (15 minutes)
D. Reading Comprehension (15 minutes)
E. Game (15 minutes)
Total: 70 minutes.
2 Procedure
A. Introduction
Taking some time in this part of the lesson to brainstorm will help with the game at the end of
the lesson.
B. Vocabulary
These are the potential problem words from the article that comes next. Your students may
know some of them so you can ask these students to explain these words to the rest of the
class. Then students can work either alone or in pairs to work their way through the rest of the
Ensure your students effectively record any new words from todayÓs lesson.
Answer Key
to shrink
to fend for oneself
to beset
water left on ground after rain
reproduction in the animal world
a lot of, sufficient
sad, depressed
to reduce in size
famous, extinct African bird
the art of making pots, vases, etc
severe, sharp
struggle without external help
to trouble persistently
the financial means whereby one lives
use of water in agriculture
C. Reading
This will be quite a challenging piece of reading for an intermediate level class. ItÓs about 600
words in length and, although most will have been covered in the vocabulary exercise, there
will be quite a few new words for the students.
D. Reading Comprehension
This is a little different from the classic true/false reading comprehension exercises. This one
also includes the option ÐdonÓt knowÑ. Students who do reading comprehensions at a higher
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Level: Intermediate
level need to learn not to use any information that is not given in the text. Students shouldnÓt
presume anything unless it is explicitly stated in the text.
For example, question 3: it is highly likely that his town is now further from the shrinking
lakeÓs shore than at one time. But it is not stated and we cannot therefore be certain. The
addition of this ÐdonÓt knowÑ option gets students into the good habit of using the text and only
the text for their answers.
Answer Key
1. DonÓt know.
2. True, extraction of water also a problem.
3. DonÓt know. Presumably so, but not stated.
4. True, he is struggling with the rent.
5. True.
6. False, she wants cooperation between ALL the governments in the area.
7. True.
8. False, he doesnÓt talk about permission but hints at possibility (Ðfive meter shorelineÈÑ)
9. True, Ðmassive irrigation schemesÑ.
10. DonÓt know.
E. Game
Split the class into 2-4 groups depending on the size of the class. Ideally, you should have 3-4
students in each group although groups of up to 6 or 7 are fine.
Use the page of printable cards on the last page of this lesson plan and cut them into
individual cards. Each group takes their turn with different cards, which have various
environmental problems written on them.
Each student in a group is given about 20 seconds to make a few comments on the issue
before the teacher indicates that the next member of the group should take over and continue
the speech (which can be about causes/effects/solutions of the problems on each card).
You can decide to be more or less strict in this game, penalizing repetition or irrelevant
comment or choosing to let it go. A simple points system can also be adopted if you want to
make it more competitive.
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