Hurting The Tano River God With Pollution

A god lives in the Tano River. The beauty with impervious borders that flows 400 kilometres from the hills of Techiman to the Ehy Lagoon, the Tendo Lagoon and, finally, to the Aby Lagoon in Coted’Ivoire, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

I fell in love with the Tano many years ago when I visited a village near Sunyani called Tanoso.

It’s a place I consider a home.

It’s a beautiful village with warm and wealthy families. The Tano River runs through it.

With its many fishes that nobody catches.

In fact, it is a taboo to fish in the Tano River. And even kids who swim in the river everyday know about the tales told of those who abused the custom.

Tanoso refuses to fish from the Tano because they believe the fishes are their souls.

Wisdom passed on from generations.

Beyond that, it is believed that the river god, Tano, lives in the river disguised as a huge cat fish with a golden emblem on its head.

There are indeed huge cat fishes in the Tano River. Some of which are as big as myself.

Yes I have seen them with my eyes.

I have since maintained my bond with this village and river and when I pass by the Ahafo area on an assignment, I buy bread along the road to feed the fishes, just like other tourists, who are fortunate enough to make the discovery, do.

Legend has it that those who frequently practice this receive abundant grace, but it was the beauty of the fishes outswimming each other to get to pieces of my bread that fascinated me each time I indulged in the act.

Growing concern

So lately, I have been gravely concerned about news of human activities polluting the Tano River and even posing danger to the people who depend on the water body.

Last week, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) advised all the communities along the Tano River from Techiman-Tanoso in the Bono East Region to Chiraa in the Bono Region and Duayaw Nkwanta and Bechem in the Ahafo Region not to drink from the river until further notice, because the water had been poisoned.

A press statement issued by the Offinso North District Director of NADMO, Mr Elijah Mamos, said the directive had become necessary as a result of an accident which involved an articulated truck carrying sulphuric acid.

The vehicle had plunged into the river at Tanoso in the Bono East Region and rendered the river unsafe for human consumption.

As a result of the accident, the acid which was in 2500 gallons, washed into the water and culminated in the death of several aquatic animals, including fishes and crocodiles.

I cringed on reading the statement. How could we allow this to occur in the first place? What could have happened to Nana Tano? Was one of the dead fishes bearing a golden emblem? I asked myself these questions over and over again, but found no courage to express it to anyone.

The real danger

But apart from the pollution that could pass for an accident, there are deliberate actions of individuals that pose even worse danger to the communities along the river.

Notable among them is the search for precious minerals around the river body.

Research has detected physico-chemical properties and heavy metal in the Tano River along the catchment of the Ahafo mine.

A study that evaluated the concentrations of total mercury in water, sediment and fish from the Ankobra and Tano rivers, which drain the major gold mining areas in the country made an alarming revelation.

It established that although the mercury concentration in water from both basins were generally within the World Health Organisation (WHO) threshold limits for drinking water, there was some exception along portions of the river.

Concentration of mercury in the sediment however exceeded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ecotoxicological threshold in some sampling stations, suggesting potential adverse ecological effects.

The research also suggested that the mercury levels in fish from both basins were lower than the WHO value (
Generally, the results suggested that mining activities significantly contribute to the considerable environmental Hg contamination in both the Ankobra and Tano river basins.

This is a scary revelation that must be carefully monitored and controlled to reduce its inputs and mitigate potential health consequences of mercury accumulation in the environment.