- Government representatives of Ghana and Burkina Faso, representing 85 percent of the basin of River Volta, are planning the establishment of an inter-governmental agency to manage the river basin. The major West African river and its tributaries cross the territory of six countries.
Environmental experts from the governments of Burkina Faso and Ghana have met in the northern Ghanaian city of Tamale to discuss the management of the Volta Basin. The meeting was organised by the global environmentalist union IUCN, which aims at improving the management of this important river system.
The Ghanaian and Burkinabe government experts concluded that an inter-governmental body should be established to promote the environmental dialogue between the six nations in the Volta Basin. Such an agency, the experts found, could address the resolution of problems involved in resource management and create synergy among stakeholders of the basin.
Ghana and Burkina Faso - which was named Upper Volta in colonial times - are the principal countries of the Volta Basin, accounting for 85 percent of its extension. Other countries affected by River Volta and its tributaries are Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin and a small part of Mali.
Environmental pressure is steadily increasing in the densely populated river basin. Demographic experts calculated that the population in Ghana's part of the Volta Basin will increase by 57 percent by 2025 and by 55 percent in the Burkinabe part of the basin.
Six countries divide the basin but Ghana and Burkina Faso divide 85% of space. The population of the basin of Volta knows a fast increase. Projections of experts envisage of it an increase of about 55% for Burkina and of 57% for Ghana by 2025.
To satisfy Ghana's needs for socio-economic development by 2025, the national water consumption is believed to increase by 128 percent, while that of Burkina Faso may increase by 429 percent. "The effort by Ghana in the reaching the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals anticipates an increasing water demand, while available water resources will remain unchanged," noted Alhadji Adams, representing the Ghanaian Minister of Public Works.
Burkina Faso, which controls most of the sources of River Volta, meanwhile will need to multiply its take-out of water from the river basin. Consequently, a joint management of the basin was essential to transform the potential risks of tension over the access to water resources into potential of regional cooperation, the experts concluded.
The Burkinabe representative also emphasised on the need to establish a regional cooperation before resource conflicts would emerge. Francis Bougaire, Director of the Hydraulic Resources Inventory of Burkina Faso (DGIRH), thus emphasised on the "need for the two countries to join forces in a permanent and fraternal cooperation to find appropriate, consensual and equitable solutions to all situations that may arise."
The Swedish cooperation agency (SIDA), which supports the Ghanaian-Burkinabe initiative, held that the water resource could develop into an important factor of regional integration. "Sweden will not spare any effort to support this project, which is based on cooperation between the two countries," underlined Lennart Karlson of the Swedish Embassy in Burkina Faso.
The initiative to the Tamale workshop, held 17-18 January, comes as the result of a three-year project by the IUCN. The environmentalist union aims at improving water management in the West African region. A similar inter-governmental authority for the larger Niger Basin has already been set up.
The Tamale workshop constitutes the first meeting, where all principal stakeholders had been invited to assess an action plan of the project and to agree further activities. The participants recommended that the Ghanaian and Burkinabe water companies be implicated in the further development of the project to assure its durability.
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