Abuja - It sounds like something from Wakanda, the futuristic African kingdom of the hit movie "Black Panther". But "Transaqua" is a very real proposal for a very real problem -- how to replenish the shrinking waters of Lake Chad. Experts met in Abuja for two days this week to discuss ways to stop Lake Chad from drying up -- and Transaqua, although still in its infancy and facing many hurdles, attracted interest. Transaqua has been proposed by Italian engineering and consulting firm Bonifica, in partnership with the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina). For Italy, the project, which according to one estimate could cost as much as $14 billion (11.45 billion euros), may help slow the flow of migrants seeking to leave Africa for Europe. "The vision of hundreds of people dying in the Mediterranean sea" had spurred Italy into action, according to Bonifica technical director Franco Bochetto. It imagines a 2,600-km (1,600-mile) canal from the Democratic Republic of Congo across the Central African Republic to meet the Chari River that feeds into the freshwater lake. Lake Chad - where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria meet - has been synonymous in recent years with Boko Haram Islamists, whose insurgency has blighted the region. But climate change and water mismanagement have contributed to a staggering 90-percent decline of the lake's surface area in the past 40 years. The 40 million people who live around and on the lake are among the poorest in the world, with the UN estimating that a quarter are in need of food handouts to survive.