Monday, September 17, 2007
Woes of fishermen along the Volta Lake
THE Saturday, September 1, 2007 banner headline of The Mirror under, the heading ‘We can’t fish in the Volta Lake’ cannot pass without comment.
To some, the development as reported was news but to the millions of inhabitants along the Volta River down to the sea, it is a part of their lives as they have been made to believe, for numerous appeals to the powers that have fallen on deaf ears.
The story, in part, says “the livelihood of nearly 300 fishermen, who ply their trade along the Kpong section of the Volta Lake and their dependents, is under threat as a result of the massive growth of weeds that have covered a greater portion of the water surface of the river”.
It is instructive to note that the figure quoted by the reporter, Mr. Vance Azu, who deserves commendations, represents a minute percentage of the victims considering the fact that the problems are not limited to only the people in and around Kpong but all those living down the Akosombo Dam such as Akwamus and Tongus. What makes the situation of the latter more disturbing is that they are predominantly fishermen.
It is unfortunate that the fishermen and their dependents in and around Kpong should be confronted with this situation, which has put their vocation and major source of livelihood in great danger. But what the reporter and others may not be aware of is that fishermen in Tongu have been battling with these threats for over two decades, not long after the Akosombo dam had been created.
As for the allegation of dynamite use, I will be surprised if fishermen in the Volta River can be credited with innocence since technology spreads fast, and what is more, the threats are the same.
Two spokespersons of the fishermen were quoted as saying that fishing in the river was no longer viable as it became frustrating thus compelling a lot of their colleagues to abandon the trade. This explains why a good number of fisher folks found along water bodies dotted across the country are from Tongu, and are mistakenly called “Battors”, instead of Tongus.
The most disturbing revelation by the two spokespersons was what borders on the health of the people. They said or rather confirmed that some of their colleagues suffer from bilharzias, skin irritation, and abdominal pot bellies.
The paper said that the invasion of the river along the Kpong area by the thick weeds “started over a year ago”. It is a terrible experience! If we consider the seriousness of the health conditions; bilharzias, skin irritation, etc. within this short time as against the number of years that the Tongus in general have endured them then we can imagine what they have gone through.
The raw river serves as the source of drinking water for many communities in these areas. Has this paradox not fired a sharp reminder of someone living by the river and yet having to wash his/her hand with spittle?
Though without statistics, I can say that bilharzias, which, I, then as a teenager, suffered from for many times through contact with the ever contaminated river, is among the commonest illness in Tongu. A few years ago, I heard a radio health discussion in which experts put the three Tongu districts in superlative positions in bilharzias ranking in the region.
Dear reader, do you not think that this is a matter that not only MPs from the affected constituencies but the entire House should show much interest in since lives are at stake? As for those representing Tongu constituencies and that of Asuogyaman, it looks as if they have come to a cul-de-sac on this matter because more than once I heard them take the Volta River Authority (VRA) to task on the floor of Parliament for doing very little about the plight of the people,, but the VRA remains unmoved and the status quo remains same. I, nevertheless, urge Honorable MPs not to give up on this matter.
Should the VRA not have put up a university for the people, instituted a scholarship scheme for some child-victims as Cocoa Marketing Board is doing for cocoa farmers’ children? I urge all concerned to join the crusade for the VRA to live up to its social responsibilities towards these people.
Has anyone taken a trip through any of the 52 VRA resettlements (known as quarters) for the dam victims? Human right activists should please assess the type of building there and the prevailing conditions. Some of the resettlements are at Kete-Krachi, Vakpo, Kpando, Juapong, Afram Plains, and Nkawkubiw.
Daily Graphic - Monday, September 17, 2007 Page: 9