The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is holding an African Regional Meeting here this week for the final co-ordination of the Sahel Project aimed at enhancing the scientific basis for the integrated management of shared aquifers of the Sahel region.

An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. The Sahel region has five aquifers — the Chad Basin, Liptako-Gourma and Upper Volta System, Lullemeden Aquifer, Senegalo-Mauritanian Aquifer and Taoudeni — which are shared by 13 African countries.

The region is also characterised by an increased number of dug out wells and irrigation systems with either inadequate or no regulation of groundwater abstraction, over-exploitation, lower groundwater levels and the deterioration of water quality.

However, information on aquifer geometry, groundwater availability in terms of quantity and quality and renewability is still inadequate, immensely affecting sustainable management of groundwater.

The five-day meeting, which is being hosted by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) in Accra, has participants from all the 13 countries in the Sahel Region — Ghana, Algeria, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

Professor Francis K. A. Allotey, a renowned mathematician and scientist, who chaired the opening ceremony on Monday, said the Sahel Project had been on-going for the past three years in all the countries in the Sahel region, with major progress made in relation to methodology, data and knowledge gaps in the shared aquifer systems in the region.

Neil Jarvis, the representative of the IAEA, presented a status update of the Sahel Project and some key findings which deal with the methodology and enhanced human capacity among other things.