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Lake Awing Risks Landslide, Gas Explosion 

Professor Samuel Ayonghe and Dr. Edwin Ntasin of the Faculty of Geology and Environmental Sciences, during their visit to Lake Awing last December 26 – 30, carried out a geological investigation round the lake to assess its behaviour and activities around it. The geologists’ worry is that Lake Awing’s behavioural trends portend danger for the surrounding village, situated below the lake. 

They also fear that the lake might explode like Lake Nyos that exploded with poisonous gases in 1986, killing more than 2000 people as well as animals. According to the Fon of Awing and one Simon Ayafor (lake guard) whom the geologists interviewed, landslides occur sporadically around the lake, but are rather common around the village and actually pose a big threat.

Dr. Ntasin said a landslide would not only cause damage to the village and loss of both human and animal lives, but might trigger a flood and mudslide, that would equally be catastrophic. These, coupled with a poisonous gas explosion, would triple the disaster.

Lake Awing changes colour periodically; this, of course, is expected of volcanic lakes, of which the lake happens to be one. The Fon and Ayafor from August 2007 to July 2008, the colour changes were the longest with a short clearing of about two months before the colour change was experienced again.

Ayafor told Prof. Ayonghe and Dr. Ntasin that seven months prior to their visit, the lake changed its colour to brown with an awful smell ensuing from it. Ayonghe and Ntasin also learnt that in 2007 – 2008 the lake changed colours after a landslide that occurred on the north-western inner wall of the lake in August after heavy rainfall; and that is where the fear lies.

According to Ayafor, some sporadic loud sounds are also often heard from the lake.
Lake Awing attracts fish-hunting birds, tourists and school excursions to its serene environment of pristine forest. The lake guard, however, said the frequent visits by the fish-hunting birds had dwindled.
Geological Survey

The geological survey that Prof. Ayonghe and Dr. Ntasin undertook around the lake indicates that the environment is made up mainly of rock materials that are highly weathered.
According to their findings, the Awing region "generally has rugged topography with very steep slopes with sharply pointed peaks and highly incised valleys… difficult to climb and are estimated at a height of 2300 metres above sea level."

Says Ntasin: "The spring that runs from the lake directly down to the Awing Village where the Fon’s palace is located at 1612 metres below the lake showed a deep valley that has been affected by many landslides. These series of landslides have reduced the thickness of the stretch of land linking the lake and the valley to about four metres wide only; any major landslide disruption could release the lake water towards the greater part of the village deep in the valley.

"Considering the location of the village from the lake, the release of concentrated carbon dioxide, if found to be present, would represent the second major hazard. Since it is denser and toxic, it would move down into the valley and suffocate the inhabitants. General observation indicates that activities around the inlet spring (farming, grazing, laundry and cutting down of trees) place the catchments at great risk if proper attention is not urgently provided."

The geologists strongly suggest systematic studies of the inner and outer lake regions to ensure the protection of the historic site and to ensure that the population settled in the valleys below the lakes are free from the impending risk from flooding, mudflow or poisoning from toxic gas emission.

Recent Landslides

It should be recalled that the Bamboutos (West Region) July 20, 2003 landslide was caused by high intensity rainfall [140 mm/week] for three intermittent days and three continuous days.

According to a study carried out by Ntasin, the more than 120 landslides charged with debris such as tree trunks, boulders, corrugated roofing sheets, broken furniture and bridges killed 23 people, destroyed 261 houses, 52 bridges, 86 culverts, 496 farms, killed 385 livestock, and displaced 229 families and 1015 people. The ensuing floods also reportedly killed 57 people in Cross River State located downstream in Nigeria.

In view of landslide disasters that cause death and damage worldwide, the first World Landslide Forum, ICL, held inn Tokyo, Japan, November 18-21. Dr. Ntasin and 429 other participants from 48 countries attended it. The theme "Strengthening Research and Learning on Landslides and Related Earth Systems Disasters for Global Risk Preparedness," carried the days.

Among other resolutions, the Forum resolved that the world’s landslide communities should work closely together in and with the ICL to impact on global change on landslides and also to develop framework plans, guidelines and recommendations on landslide risk reduction for developing countries.

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