BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
A select group of journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN), Monday began a two-day tour of rural water and sanitation projects under the jurisdiction of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in the Central Region.
The tour, which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing and sponsored by the European Union (EU), forms part of a four day tour of small town water and sanitation projects in both the Western and Central regions of Ghana being funded by the European Union (EU).
Members of the network began the tour with a visit to the offices of the Central Region CWSA, where they were briefed by the Regional Director, Mr. Stephen Opoku Tuffuor and his staff about the extent of work that has been done by the agency and the challenges they face.
Addressing the journalists representing various media houses, Mr. Opoku Tuffuor disclosed that although the EU has provided funding of €23 million for 40 small town water projects (20 each for Central and Western regions) with €590,000 from beneficiary communities, they have only been able to construct 18 at great cost, in view of the salinity of groundwater in the region, which is the major obstacle his outfit has to grapple with in its work.
“The whole of the coastal zone is in the salinity belt and so the possibility of getting fresh water is very very minimal,” the CWSA Regional Director said, citing senior high schools, Mfantsiman and Apam Secondary as well as a village – Nkamfoa among a host of others, as places that they could not sink boreholes due to the very high salinity of the groundwater.
He however intimated that despite the salinity obstacle, the Central Region’s water coverage now averages 50%, made up of 44.92% provided with support from the Government of Ghana and other development partners, while 5.08% represents the 20 water systems provided with the support of the EU.
He divulged that another problem the region is encountering is a huge gap in water and sanitation delivery services, partly in view of some wrong projections made that the region had attained about 88% to 90% in water coverage, after a project by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) from France, which spanned 1992 to 1996.
Mr. Tuffuor explained that in view of that projection there was no development partner to assist in providing potable water for four years, adding that it was not until 2000 that DANIDA (Danish Development Agency), came on board and tasked CWSA to count all bore holes in the region and indicate which ones were functional.
He explained further that another reason for the gap is because of an arrangement made over time that CWSA does not go to communities which have Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) pipes running through them because of the assumption that those communities are catered for by GWCL.
“Wherever pipes are passing CWSA doesn’t go there because we are complementing each other and not competing,” he stated.
The Regional Director however affirmed that after realising that it is not all communities which have GWCL pipes running through them that are supplied water by GWCL, which is why there is a gap, they are currently liaising with GWCL to connect water to such communities.
There is a current gap of 31.08%, with a current coverage of 44.92% and an MDG target of 76% by the year 2015. According to the CWSA, work in progress is expected to cover 11% of the region’s population, while the region expects to be able to cover 55.92% by the end of 2010.
Speaking to the salinity problem in the region, Mr. Opoku Tuffuor hinted that as part of measures to address it, his outfit is currently exploring if water can be taken from the Winneba water treatment plant for some of the communities close by which still do not have access to potable drinking water, since desalination is so expensive.
For his part, Henry Franklin Asangbah, CWSA’s Regional Engineer, disclosed that at least four 50 per squat hole institutional latrines have been provided in all 20 EU beneficiary communities, although they could not cover every school in those communities.
Pauline Abrefi Oppong, the Regional Extension Services Specialist, also spoke of the difficulty CWSA had in explaining to beneficiary communities why they had to pay for water drawn from the systems provided with EU funding, adding that after much dialogue, members of the communities are now paying 5Gp for two 18 litre (size 34) buckets.
After the briefing, the media persons visited one of the EU project areas – Assin Manso, where they toured a small town water system of medium capacity (30m3) completed on Aril 7, 2010 that has been provided for the township and surrounding communities and serving an estimated 2,394 people and also interacted with some members of the community.