Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pollution of Ghana’s water bodies ... CSIR predicts water crisis in 2030



By Edmund Smith-Asante
Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo

Ghana has no problem with water sources, but potable water sources are diminishing at such a fast rate that the country faces a looming water crisis by the year 2030, if conditions continue to persist.

Scarier is the fact that there would be no treatable water source, either surface or ground water by 2030, should the rate at which the country’s water sources are being polluted continue, the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has warned.

The warning was issued by the Director of WRI, Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo, last Tuesday in an interview with the Daily Graphic on a day that had been set aside by the global community as World Water Day (WWD).

“There is the misconception that Ghana is 70 per cent covered with water. Even with the abuses, water will not depart from Ghana but the quality cannot be guaranteed,” he stated.

No respect for water
Dr Ampofo said many of the country’s water sources had been heavily polluted over the years with rubbish, chemicals used in mining such as mercury and inorganic fertiliser used for agriculture, because Ghanaians did not respect water and had taken it for granted.

But he cautioned that the combined effect of the increase in temperature, evaporation and the pollution of the country’s water sources were plunging the country into severe water crisis that would make Ghana a Sahelian country.

Citing examples of water bodies that were now extinct or were no more potable, he said “the Odaw River is now dead and not suitable for anything,” adding that global warming had resulted in a global rise in temperature of one per cent.

“In Ghana we can get about 5 per cent increase in temperature in some areas, so areas are beginning to dry up,” Dr Ampofo said. He stated that the rate at which the Densu River was drying up had also increased this year, just as the WRI had predicted before 1996.

He said “buffer zones are being abused with people now farming on river beds when they recede, therefore increasing the dryness and evaporation”.  

Effects of polluted water usage
The pollution from agriculture, poor environmental sanitation and mining, apart from posing a threat to the availability of potable water, have also resulted in very serious health consequences for every Ghanaian.

According to Dr Ampofo, research conducted by WRI showed that the use of water contaminated with algae and chemicals, for agriculture results in kidney, nervous and heart diseases.

Expressing his exasperation, he said the CSIR had warned the government of where the country was heading if steps were not taken immediately to stop the incessant pollution of water sources, but little had been done.

“If you use the polluted water to irrigate your seedlings they will die. We are wishing the country the best but hoping that someone somewhere will listen. Either we stop abusing our water bodies now or abuse it for Ghana to become a Sahel country,” he warned.

Boreholes
Dr Ampofo stated that although hitherto it was the surface water bodies that were polluted, several tests conducted on water from many boreholes across the country showed that pollution of the groundwater had resulted in unwholesome water from the boreholes.

He lamented that many boreholes were being sunk in the country, but no one was checking the level of the country’s groundwater, adding, “If many boreholes are sunk in the same area the soil will cave in.”

Dr Ampofo stated that although the CSIR used to monitor boreholes in the country, the project, which was funded by Danish Development Agency (DANIDA), had since ended and the council lacked the needed funds to continue. 

System failure
He said the fact that 500ml of water currently sold for GH¢1 showed that water was getting more expensive than fuel, which currently sells around GH¢3.37 for a litre.

Describing the high patronage of bottled and sachet water by people as a system failure, he said “we have failed as a country. We cannot provide basic water for the people. People do not trust the tap water produced by the Ghana Water Company.”

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on March 29, 2016

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