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EPA, VRA Abandon US$830,000 Harvesters?
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Communities sitting along the Lower Volta from the Asuogyamang District in the Eastern Region through the Central and South Tongu districts in the Volta Region and parts of Ada in the Greater Accra Region will have to continue struggling with the invasive aquatic weeds as the four new harvesters acquired by the state to clear the weeds have been abandoned at Akuse.

The harvesters, said to cost US$830,000, were jointly inaugurated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) in September last year at Kpong, with Ms Sherry Ayitey, the then Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, as the special guest of honour.

As part of the event, the harvesters were used to clear weeds in the Lower Volta at Kpong. Many fishermen and residents whose livelihood was being impacted upon negatively by the invasive aquatic weeds heaved a sigh of relief.

What made them even more ecstatic was news that each harvester could clear over an acre of weeds within 15 minutes.

But eight months after the inauguration of the four weeds harvesters, they are lying idle while the aquatic weeds, particularly water hyacinth, a fast creeping plant, have virtually covered the top of the Volta River.

At Avadiwoekome Island, the biggest island on the Lower Volta Basin at the Lower Manya District, for instance, the weeds have made it impossible for fishermen and women who use canoes to cross the Volta to other communities to trade.

Known to be favourable breeding habitats for bilharzia worms, the weeds have also made it impossible for the people to pick oysters, which hide under the water hyacinth. Towns affected include Alorkopem, Afrive, Tuanikope, Adzakey, Kpetsupanya, Kewuse, Agorta, and Big Ada in the Ada East District.

When the Resource Manager of EPA, Mr Carl Fiati, was contacted, he told The Finder that the VRA had refused to use the harvesters because two of the four machines were malfunctioning.

The two faulty equipments, Mr Fiati said, were noticed by the VRA after all four were handed over to the Authority to start the clearing of the weeds on the Volta River.

Attempts by The Finder to get the VRA for a confirmation or otherwise of the story proved futile.

But the Chief Fisherman of Kpong, Mr Emmanuel Kokoti, does not understand what stops the VRA from clearing the weeds with the two other machines which are in good working condition.

In his view, however, Victus Tetteh, the Executive Director of Youth Development and Rural Empowerment Foundation (YODREF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a consultant in aquaculture, thinks the best solution to killing the invasive aquatic weeds that have blocked the water course from the Asuogyamang District is to dredge the silted Volta estuary at Azizanya in Ada.

He indicated that a heavy sludge has prevented the swift flow of saline water from the sea at the estuary into the fresh water of the Volta upstream, thereby making the river a good vegetation zone for fast growing invasive aquatic weeds, which have for a decade now served as habitats for reptiles and bilharzia-causing bacteria.

He further explained that the bilharzia-causing worm thrives well in aquatic weeds that grow in fresh water, which is a source of drinking water for the communities along the Volta River and the islanders.

Not only would the dredging of the estuary increase the salinity of the fresh water and kill all the aquatic weeds and bilharzia worms but also widen the estuary and bring huge economic benefits to the people, Mr Tetteh underscored.
Source: The Finder

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