Monday, April 15, 2013

Can Ghana Avoid the Coming Water Wars?

Franklin Cudjoe, President, IMANI Ghana
Source: IMANI

Have any one of you urban dwellers ever joined a queue all day to fetch water from a well just because your state-managed water system had not been flowing for days?

Did you have to travel miles away from home just to get a gallon of water to use? Do you have to buy water from a water tanker every week without knowing how safe it is? If your answer to the above is yes, you may be lucky.

For residents of Ntoronang Zongo, a rural community in the Birim North District, clean water is a luxury they cannot afford. In Kwahu North District IMANI’s field researchers asked one young female resident if the village’s source of water was clean; her answer was this: “Oh yes but sometimes we find dirt in the water when we fetch which we allow to settle and then sieve before use. And sometimes we don’t get water from the boreholes so we go back to the old ways of fetching from any running water around. We need more boreholes and pipe systems which are closer to our communities.”

In the Kwahu North Afram Plains District, the promise of at least half of intended water projects is yet to be fulfilled after many years of planning. A total of number of 246 water facilities comprising 238 Boreholes and 8 Pipe system earmarked for implementation in the District Water and Sanitation Plan (DWSP II) 2006 - 2010 could not be implemented. Only 20 of the water facilities were accomplished comprising 17 Boreholes and 3 Pipe systems within the period under review leaving a deficit of 226 comprising 221 Boreholes and 5 Pipe systems for nearly 685 towns, villages and hamlets spread over the 5040 sq km land area in the district.

Water is essential for all dimensions of life. This year, the United Nations and allied agencies have declared 2013 as the International Year for Water Cooperation, seeking stakeholder involvement in the management and delivery of safe drinking water to all. Over the past few decades population growth has not matched the availability of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities leading many climate change watchers to speculate that the next wars after oil will be over water.

The contrast however is that unlike water stressed regions such as the Sahel, Ghana virtually is washed with water bodies. Thus any shortage of water for that matter safe water is a function of short-sightedness both in financial and managerial appreciation of the value of safe drinking water to a nation. The Municipal water systems have failed. Public provision is characterised by poor water quality and thus a failure to recover costs. Thus, municipal systems can barely keep up with maintenance, let alone invest in extending their networks.

The UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) report that 1.1 billion people around the globe lack access to clean drinking water. The UN attributes 2.2 million deaths annually to poor water and sanitation. In its executive summary, for the February 2013 report WaterAid laments, "Africa cannot afford to ignore the sanitation and water crisis, and its daily toll on human life, health, livelihoods and life chances. It is holding back development and costing countries as much as 5% of their GDP each year. It is also a primary cause of diarrhoea, which has resulted in annual deaths of 400,000 children in the continent in recent years.

According to Water Aid, 80 per cent of all diseases in Ghana are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation and more than 9 million people don't have access to safe drinking water. Only around 13 per cent of the population has access to adequate sanitation facilities. Over 9 million people in Ghana lack access to an improved water source.

Yet despite a legacy of past commitments, transformative change remains elusive for most countries, and one of the key challenges - to provide satisfactory and timely resourcing of the sector is still more a promise than reality, said a Water Aid official. From 2007-2012, Ghana's expenditure on water and sanitation has been less than 0.5% of GDP. In 2010, Dr Duffuor, Honorable Bagbin, and Yileh Kyere represented the government of Ghana at the first high level on sanitation and water at Washington DC.

At the meeting, government of Ghana promised to allocate US$350 million per annum in the national budget to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene WASH. However, in the same year only 107.5 million Ghana cedis was allocated and 132.2 million Ghana cedis for 2011 translating into .0.34% of GDP.

This sad trend is replicated across the country. IMANI field researchers discovered that in spite of the depressing water situation in the Kwahu North and Birim North Districts expenditure on WASH make up averagely only 5% of the Internal Generated Fund (IGF).

This makes it difficult to provide facilities such as boreholes and pipe systems that would provide safe water for the communities but rather it is now a Officials in these two district say Only 8% of the planned programmes for the period under review were achieved and the reasons for this were untimely release of inadequate funds, inability of communities and institutions to contribute toward operations and maintenance and non-adherence to the DWSP (District Water and Sanitation Plan) by some consultants and Donors.

After celebrating World Water Day on March 22, we must keep in mind the theme of Cooperation and not just say it, but urge all interested parties, Governments, Donors, NGOs CSOs and the public to join forces in order to prevent further calamitous results from bad drinking water.

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