Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WRI @ 20 - The progress and challenges

By Edmund Smith-Asante 
Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo, Executive Director, CSIR-Water  Research Institute
Last week the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) celebrated 20 years since its merger and growth into a very formidable water research institute in 1996.

CSIR-WRI, one of the 13 research institutions of the CSIR, was established by CSIR Act 521 through the merger of the Institute of Aquatic Biology (IAB) created in 1965 and the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) created in 1982.

Making up the institute are five technical and three non-technical divisions. The technical divisions include the Environmental Biology and Health; Environmental Chemistry and Sanitation Engineering, Fishery and Aquaculture, Groundwater and Surface Water with the non-technical divisions being administration, commercialisation and finance.

But as the Deputy Director-General of CSIR, Dr Mrs Rose Emma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, put it at the launch of the anniversary celebration, which was on the theme: “Sustainable water resources management in Ghana,” it has been an uneasy relationship among biologists, chemists and engineers.

The main challenge, according to the Board Chairman of CSIR-WRI, Dr Peter Amponsah-Mensah, has been the “dried up of state funding to improve and maintain scientists for the state”.

Nonetheless, Dr Entsua-Mensah asserted that the union had made  progress and contributed in no small way to Ghana’s National Water Policy as well as water resources management.

The Director, Planning & Investments at the Community, Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr Benedict Kubabom, acknowledged the work of the WRI which had aided the agency in its operations.

“Your research findings on groundwater have helped to improve our success rate in the drilling of boreholes and also to deal with water quality issues. Your hydrological assessment in the Northern Region has helped us to locate where we actually need to punch holes for our boreholes,” he stated.

Mr Kubabom added that the groundwater database, digitised maps and also the hydrological services of CSIR-WRI in small towns were helping the CWSA in the field.

“We have been able to achieve over 28,000 boreholes, we have installed over 5,000 hand-dug wells; we have also constructed over 600 pipe schemes, and all these we did because you were there to provide information and data,” he stated further.

Some lectures were also delivered on various topics at the launch of the 20th anniversary celebration.
A retired acting Director of CSIR-WRI, Dr Edward K. Abban, who spoke on: “Aquaculture practices and potential human health risks – Case of the Volta Lake,” said most farmers did not have the resources to properly site their cages “so we have situations where people have put their cages where they are exposed to human sewage”.

“So in the end the fish in the cage has the potential of acquiring some infectious pathogens, which when taken by humans can cause a problem as it is not all germs that can be killed by heat.”

Dr Abban also said leftover fish feed settled at the bottom of the water rotting and generating a lot of ammonia in the system and creating a situation for bacteria and infectious microbial organisms to grow.

Water scarcity
For his part, a retired director of CSIR-WRI currently at the Volta Basin Authority, Dr Charles A. Biney, who spoke on: “Transboundary water governance – Case of the Volta Basin,” cautioned those at the lower part of the basin that population growth, climate change and other factors were slowly reducing the volume of water available and so care was needed in the use of the water resource among the various countries that depended on it.

A former director of CSIR-WRI, Dr Yaw Opoku-Ankomah, spoke on the topic: “Water Scarcity, a challenge in Ghana.”

He indicated that: “Ghana is not water scarce in general but if you take basins in localities there is some water stress.” He explained that there was water stress when a community had to share water sources with a volume of between 1,000 m3 and 1,700m3, while a volume of between 500m3 and 1,000m3 pointed to water scarcity.

Another retired acting director of CSIR-WRI, Dr Philip Gyau-Boakye, who touched on: “Climate change and its effects on Ghana,” said the two parameters that constituted climate change and affected water resources such as surface and groundwater were changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.

He indicated that what was causing the changes were human activities, saying a study conducted had revealed that “if we are not careful, the rivers will shrink in 2050, some by about 50 per cent, and if that happens, we will have a problem because every Ghanaian lives within a river basin or system”.  
Awards were presented to four winners in an essay competition organised for senior high schools. The first and second prize winners, Martin Waana-ang of the St Francis Xavier Junior Seminary in Wa and Nana Adwoa Serwaa Asare, Abetifi Presby Senior High School, who spoke with the Daily Graphic, were elated on receiving the awards.

According to the first prize winner and form one student, Martin, it took him two days to write the essay on the topic: “Solutions to the problems of sanitation and water resources.” He said winning the prize had motivated him to get involved in more essay competitions.

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 This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on June 27, 2016

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