Friday, 30 November 2007
THE health of the people living in communities along the Volta Basin is threatened by aquatic weeds which provide breeding grounds for snails that play host to bilharzias, the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has said.
The weeds he said, are rapidly invading water bodies in the lower Volta resulting in high prevalence of bilharzia in many parts of the Volta Basin, and adversely affecting the socio-economic activities and livelihood of the people.
Jonathan Allotey, executive director of the EPA, disclosed this in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of an integrated management project aimed at controlling the invasion of aquatic weeds in the Tano and Volta rivers.
The 2.5-million-dollar project, being executed by the EPA, is expected to reduce by 20 per cent the aquatic weeds in the seven districts along the two rivers.
Mr. Allotey said at present, about 30 per cent of the water surface of the Volta River has been infested by the weeds in various locations while that of Tano River is 50 per cent.
According to a Volta River Authority report, about 50 per cent and 60 per cent of people of Kpong and Fodzoku, in the Dangme West District, were infested with bilharzia last year.
He said that the first invasion of aquatic weeds in the country was in the 1980s and by 1994, the problem had assumed “serious dimensions.”
“It affects navigation on the affected rivers such as Tano and Oti, irrigation, domestic water supply and hydropower generation on the Volta,” he pointed out.
“In portions of the Lower Volta Basin, stretching from Amedeka to Azizanya, massive infestation of the submerged weeds covering 70 per cent of the water column significantly constrained fishing activities, and contributed to modifying the habitat for fresh water clam,” he added.
Mr. Allotey attributed the spread of the weeds to changes in hydrology arising from damming of water courses, alteration of flow rates and nutrients inputs from agricultural and human activities.
These, he explained, affect the natural ecological balance and creates conditions that promote the rapid growth and spread of the weeds.
He said that the EPA has since 1984, led the control of the weeds in water bodies with support of other stakeholders, adding that the current project is to further control aquatic weeds.
“Removal of the weeds would improve the water transport, navigation, availa-bility of water for irrigation, improvement in the quality of the water and less infestation of bilharzia disease,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, Maxwell Kofi Dwumah, said the government is aware of the challenges facing communities at the Lower Volta and the Lower Tano areas as a result of the weed infestation.
He said government is committed to assisting the communities to address the challenges to enable them to harness the opportunities provided by water resources for sustainable development.