Saturday, 21 April 2007

21 April

Legend has it that once, a long time ago, a hunter from the great Ashanti nation in Ghana followed a deer deep into the bush and down a hill. Here he found a beautiful lake, with no rivers leading in or out, that was full of fish. He thanked the deer and ate the fish. So a settlement was founded and each year the lake grew and the fish were bountiful. The gods decreed that no iron should enter the lake and everyone obeyed and everyone was happy. This place was called Bosumtwi.

Today Bosumtwi is over fished and ravaged by slash and burn farming. The once bountiful rainforest that surrounded Bosumtwi is crisscrossed with scars of red soil that flow into the lake when it rains. From the peoples talk it seems the rains themselves are changing coming heavier but less often. However, even though it has suffered it is still a beautiful magical place.

Now another legend is growing. This time they say scientists and modern day wise men came following a meteorite star they believe fell thousand of years ago. They come to Bosumtwi and saw not the Lake but the hole – they said where did this come from? A bore was drilled deep into the centre of the lake to find rock samples to answer their question – the villagers who remembered the gods were nervous of their metal boat and their metal drill – but the chiefs had agreed and no one heard them. The scientists drilled.

No one at the lakeside seems to know how this new legend ends. Some say the lake is not from a meteorite. They warn of a volcano bubbling below and waiting to take all. Some say the lake is from a meteorite and full of diamonds or gold – they think people want them to leave so they can take all. It is hard to know how the legend of Bosumtwi will end but it is painfully likely that most answers will bring suffering to the people here.

In somewhere like Bosumtwi I imagine the effects of mining would be devastating. The reliance on the Lake means even limited access to it could have a dramatic affect on the villages. If the water was to become contaminated, as it has at mine sites such as at Tarkwa, it would be unimaginable. At Tarkwa the river was made unsafe to drink and nearly every living organism in it was killed. Horrendous - but with hope - because a river flows and therefore stands a chance of cleaning itself. This is not the case for Lake Bosumtwi

If it is a volcano and it blows up it seems it could come as a deadly cloud of gas. Or maybe, as the villagers seem to expect, things will just stay the same. But as the weather dries and the slash and burn continues around the lake there is another deadly cloud creeping down the mountain. This one is made of the dust eroded from the mountain side and slowly filling the lake in the crater below. There is another water pollutant too as people who have washed in the lake for years no longer use natural soap but turn to the extra cleaning power of ‘omo’, ‘Ariel’ and ‘detol’. Danger it seems is all around.

I have been trying to find solutions for this lake since I first saw its magnificent glory ten years ago. I have watched environmental empowerment workshops, hotels, development projects, education projects, tree planting and much more come and go. I still believe the answer will come but I have to wait for one of the villagers to tell me what it is.

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