The country risks becoming a net importer of water in the next twenty years if steps are not taken to stop the activities of illegal mining which pollute most of the river bodies and destroy forest reserves, Minister for Water Resources and Sanitation, Cecilia Dapaah, has said.
According to her, Ghana is naturally endowed with rich environmental resources including water, but ineffective management of the resources – along with pressure from population growth and climate change – has led to increasing water insecurity across the country.
The statement was contained in a speech read for the minister at the second edition of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) conference held in Tamale, under the auspices of the University for Development Studies (UDS) and Desert Research Institute (DRI) of Nevada system of higher education, USA.
The two-day workshop organised by UDS in collaboration with DRI, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and World Vision on the theme, ‘WASH and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), success, Challenges and Lessons learnt and the way forward’, was to develop strategies that build the capacity of WASH sector stakeholders to effectively design and manage WASH systems, and increase resilience to climate change and improve water security.
The event, which brought together diverse WASH stakeholders, was also to discuss emerging research and best practices related to WASH sustainability and the effective management of water resources for improved access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.
She said government spends about US$290million per annum on waste management because almost 97 percent of all publicly-owned and managed sewage/faecal treatment plants are non-functional, with most citizens reluctant to practice proper sanitation in the country.
She disclosed that only 23 percent of households in Ghana practice open defecation, with nearly 54 percent of households using shared sanitation facilities that are not hygienic.
“It is not long ago that we eradicated the guinea worm disease in Ghana, but the waterborne diseases still persist and require concerted efforts to control the menace,” she said.
“Open defecation is still rife in many of the rural communities and urban slums due to lack of proper sanitation facilities and awareness-creation,” he added.
The notion that waste management is the responsibility of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies makes citizen feel reluctant to contribute to proper waste disposal, she lamented.
She stressed the need for proper drinking water and sanitation to curb the debilitating diseases affecting citizens, especially children under five in the country.
She expressed worry about the vast majority of preventable illnesses in Ghana caused by lack of safe water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene practices affecting residences mostly in the rural areas, but little is done to reduce the issue.
She therefore commended UDS and DRI for their commitment to addressing WASH issues in the North, especially in rural areas where cases are common.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Worlanyo Kwadjo Siabi represented by the Northern Region Director of CWSA Ing. Gilbert Amoah Ayamgah, said only seven percent of water supplies in rural communities meet the national water quality standard – with incidences of high level of fluoride, arsenic, and hardness posing a challenge to most communities.
He said there is therefore need to deploy technical staff on small town water systems to deal with the knowledge gap which has created the challenges that leave most of the water systems not operating as designed.
He noted that one of the major challenges for urban water management is inability of the consumers to pay the right revenue for water consumed – which is estimated at about 50 percent of both private and public sector institutions/companies as well individuals refusing to honour their obligations.
“The CWSA created 677 small town pipe water systems by the end of 2018, of which the Assemblies are expected to provide support for communities to manage the water systems,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor of UDS, Prof. Gabriel Ayum Teye, said the level of a country’s development can be measured to a large extent by the proportion of its population that has access to adequate quality water and good sanitation.
“Improved access to water and sanitation can reduce hunger, poverty and child mortality as well improve primary education,” he said.
He reiterated the university’s commitment to help enhance water and sanitation issues around the university communities and up-North.
He said the university is therefore training more graduates to man operations of the water systems, and sanitary inspectors to educate the communities on best hygienic practice.
He said the university, in collaboration with DRI, is also to develop a research and training programme to build local capacity for more effective WASH programmes design and management of water resources.