Think Piece. Human Vulnerability to Depleting Water Resources in Cameroon: Sensitisation approaches
The ecological diversity of Cameroon is linked to its geology, morphology and climate. This diversity is unique, not only in the central African region, but on the African continent as a whole. It ranges from wetlands along the Atlantic coast in the south, through equatorial rain forest, to savanna in the Sahel, and then to desert scrub in the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert at the extreme northern end of the country around Lake Chad (Figure 1). This uniqueness is also reflected by the variations in the culture of the people who speak over 250 languages. The determinant factor for the distribution and concentrations of both urban and rural populations, as well as their livelihood, is accessibility to water supplies. The potential of these resources is dependent on the types of aquifers which, according to Ayonghe (1998), are recharged by rainfall in sedimentary rocks, fault zones in Precambrian crystalline rocks, weathered Cretaceous granites and Tertiary volcanic rocks. Phreatic aquifers constitute the main catchment areas in the country, especially along the dominant morphological high termed the Cameroon Volcanic Line. According to Ntasin and Ayonghe (2001) rivers radiate from this major catchment in all directions (Figure 1). The groundwater within this main catchment area has, over the past few decades, been observed to be under stress – as indicated by the depleting volumes of water in the rivers. Complete or total disappearances of perennial springs, leading to dried-up streams and drastic decreases in the volume of rivers, especially during dry seasons, are common (Ayonghe, 1998). In fact, hydrogeological events within the last 10 years have left almost every critical hydrological observer with the conclusion that the stock of water resources in the country has been declining. The marked reduction in the size of Lake Chad,
located at the northern end of the country, the growing potable water crises in both urban and rural communities, the reducing volumes of water in nearly all rivers leading to shortages of electricity supplies from hydroelectric generating stations, and the increasing southward migration of communities from the north, are also strong pointers to the fact that a major water crisis is looming. Consequently, there is need to pay urgent attention to this problem. This paper constitutes a critical review of the causes of the depleting water resources, the trends related to some of the causes, projected impacts in the near future, and the possible impacts of such trends.
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