Fifty Water Resources experts from 13 African countries have begun a five-day meeting in Accra, to discuss research findings on the first phase of the Sahel Region underground water project.
The Sahel project is a two-year research programme aimed at enhancing the scientific basis for integrated management of the five aquifer systems shared by the 13 countries.
The shared systems are located in the Chad Basins, the Liptako-Gourma in the Upper Volta basin, the Lullemeden system, the Senegalo-Manritanian Aquifer and the Taouden of the Sahel Region.
Participating countries are Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Chad, Manritanian, Central Africa Republic, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun and Algeria.
The event organised the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA), (GAEC)) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would also discuss avenues to explore new ways to co-ordinate more activities into underground water reservour systems.
The Minister of Water Resources Works and Housing, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah in a speech read on his behalf, commended the IAEA and the GAEC for bringing policy makers to discuss global effects of climate change and human activity which are evident on surface water resources.
He said though Ghana is endowed with both surface and ground water, issues of groundwater salinity, fluoride, and arsenic contamination, identification of recharge areas, contaminant transport ground water ages and mapping of the aquifers are still major challenges that needed to be addressed.
The minister urged the participants to translate their visions and strategies into actions, to ensure that the continent is provided with enough as water in order to make a difference on the livelihood of millions of Africans.
The president of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Professor Francis Allotey, said additional information was needed to ensure effective management of ground water in the sub-region.
He said though a lot of progress has been made in the past three years, the Sahel Region continued to be characterised by inadequate regulation of the underground water abstraction; over exploitation of groundwater, lower groundwater levels and the deterioration of the groundwater quality.
The Director-General of the GAEC, Prof. Benjamin J.B. Nyarko, said underground water when effectively harnessed would provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water, improve food security, and public health.
He said 76 per cent of Ghana’s population in both rural and urban areas has access to clean portable water even though challenges such as salinity, fluoride, and nitrate contamination have been identified in some countries.
Prof. Nyarko indicated that GAEC with support of IAEA has established Isotope Hydrology Laboratory to address challenges in groundwater contamination.
The IAEA Technical Co-ordinator, Mr. Neil Jarrise said the Agency would continue to support the activities of countries in the Sahel Region in order to explore new ways of providing the people with clean water.
By Lawrence Vomafa-Akpalu