By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has warned that the country would have severe shortages of water in a decade if immediate steps were not taken to check pollution of its water resources.
Making a presentation at a symposium on Monday to commemorate World Water Day (WWD), Mr Hadisu Alhassan, Marketing Manager, Water Quality Assurance, GWCL, noted that, “In 2025, Ghana will be progressing towards a water-stressed country, if we do not utilise available resources very well.”
Listing the factors which were likely to create water challenges as population growth, urbanisation and climate change, he said that half of the world would also live in situations of high water stress by the year 2030.
Mr Alhassan said the urban population in Ghana moved from 9.4 per cent in 1931 to 50.8 per cent in 2010, with 43 per cent of urban dwellers, including 1.3 million for Accra alone, living in slums.
Threat to water qualityHe said while cities had low resilience in adapting to the effects of climate change, water quality was constantly under threat from sea water intrusion into river bodies, chemical spillage of cyanide from mining companies that killed the aquatic ecosystem and illegal mining (galamsey) which had caused physico-chemical pollution of the Pra, Birim, Ankobra and Oda rivers.
Mr Alhassan also said the country lacked adequate infrastructure to store much needed water, while climate change was affecting source water volumes.
Sand-winning activities were also causing shutdowns of the Kpong water treatment plant and silting of the Pra River and other water reservoirs.
Agriculture, he said, was also contributing to the challenges of urban water quality through nutrient load from farms which was impacting the Densu, Volta, Tano and Ankobra rivers.
Adding that effluents such as grease and oil from garages and invasive aquatic weeds were impacting the quality and volume of water resources, he cautioned, “If we sit down unconcerned, the resource which we love will not be available for us.”
Way outTo arrest the situation, Mr Alhassan recommended intensive education on sustainable development as well as the improvement of technical co-ordination among regulatory bodies.
He also called for inter-basin water transfer to improve the balance of available fresh water and massive solid waste and waste water treatment projects by cities.
Speaking on the topic, “Water and Sustainable Development: Water and Health Nexus”, the Country Representative of WaterAid Ghana, Dr Afia Zakiya, argued that water, sanitation and hygiene were essential to public health, while a strong and inclusive health system was an important contributor to sustainable socio-economic development.
She said that it was critical to secure water resources and utilise them for improved public health as well as greater equity and social inclusion. “It is World Water Day; but water is not life if water is not combined with appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices, policies and messages,” she noted.
Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Mr Frederick Addai, the Director, Water Directorate, said the government was taking pragmatic action to control the activities of illegal miners that had polluted the country’s hitherto pristine water bodies and courted the collaboration of the general public to curb the activities.
He said it was heartwarming that the Water Research Institute (WRI), with technical support from other key water-related institutions, had initiated research studies to demonstrate the importance and benefits of natural infrastructure as a nature-based solution for sustainable development.
In his closing remarks, Chairman for the symposium, which was on the theme; “Water and Sustainable Development”, Prof. Nana Agyewodin Wereko-Ampem, the Board Chairman, said fighting the galamsey menace was the responsibility of all. “We are all stakeholders. You are also important in getting the laws working. All of us must back the government to have the political will to solve the problem,” he said.
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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on March 24, 2015