Six West African countries have signed an agreement creating the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) to promote and reinforce co-operation among them in the management and development of the basin estimated to be 400,000 square kilometres.
Water Resources Ministers from Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Togo signed the agreement in the Togolese capital, Lome, on July 17, a statement issued by the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing said yesterday.
The Sector Minister, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang signed for Ghana. The statement said the Ministers also adopted a roadmap, which would serve as a year-work plan for the VBA for the period July 2006 to June 2007.
The VBA is expected to harmonise national policies on integrated water resources management in the Basin, the ninth largest basin in Sub-Saharan Africa with a population of about 14 million people who depend directly or indirectly on the resources of the River.
It would coordinate studies and research throughout the Basin for the development of the water resources, in particular the supply of water to the populations, hydro power production, irrigation, animal husbandry, fishing and conservation of aquatic systems.
VBA would develop and reinforce the system for collection, processing, storage and dissemination of data for scientific research and planning, facilitate the mobilisation of human, technical and financial resources necessary for the implementation of the activities of the Authority and establish and implement an integral water resources management plan for the Basin.
With a population growth rate of 2.5 per cent per annum, the Basin and its resources are increasingly becoming stressed as a result of human activity. “Competition over water could become a potential source of conflict, especially between Ghana and Burkina Faso, which together share 85 per cent of the total Basin area,” the statement said. “On the other hand, the vital nature of freshwater could also be a powerful incentive for cooperation and mutual benefit for the riparian States.”
The statement noted that before the establishment of the VBA, there existed no mechanism and institution to spearhead the prudent and sustainable utilisation of the water resources of the Basin.
The Basin, therefore, remained one of the few trans-boundary river basins in Africa without a formal institutional and legal arrangement for managing its water resources.