Friday, March 28, 2014

World Water Day Commemorations: Are We Learning Any Lessons?

If statistics and news reports about worsening water situations in Ghanaian rural communities are anything to go by, then citizens must begin to join hands with the government to find lasting solutions to the looming crisis.

Not a year passes by and citizens are informed of how distressing the water situation in the country and for that matter, globally, is becoming. Staggering statistics can sometimes make one believe that there is looming commotion between and/or among communities over water. Could this be the reason why experts often predict that the next world war would be centered on water? 

As Ghana joins the world to commemorate World Fresh Water Day again, the numerous questions that keep popping up are; Are we learning any lessons from our actions towards the natural environment?  How much water are we conserving in our natural water bodies and at home through the rains?

The day is set aside as a means of focusing attention on the importance of fresh water and advocating for the sustainable use and management of fresh water resources and this has been celebrated each year. The celebration was first recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The UN General Assembly responded by designating 22nd March 1993 as the first World Fresh Water Day and since then, it has been celebrated each year highlighting on specific aspects of fresh water. 

The theme for this year’s event is: “Water and Energy.” According to World Vision-Ghana, there is increasing demand for water by populations the world over and the situation requires urgent attention from governments and their citizens to overcome any problems that may emanate from lack of water for human use.

Addressing stakeholders at the commemoration of the 2014 World Fresh Water Day held at Talli in the Tolon District in the Northern Region, James Asedem, Operations Base Team Leader of World Vision, said the United Nations predicts that by 2030, the global population will need 35% more food, 40% more water and 50% more energy.

According to him, already 768 million people lack access to improved water sources, 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation and 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity. 

If the above global statistics seem too huge to comprehend, have you heard about the story of marriages collapsing somewhere in Ghana due to water scarcity? In the March 12, 2014 edition of The Daily Dispatch, a story authored by journalist Edward Adeti with caption: “WOMEN WALK OUT ON MARRIAGES IN BONGO DUE TO WATER SCARCITY” should not be taken lightly, instead, it should be seen as the reality beginning to dawn on us.

To quote part of the story, it said: “Perennial scarcity of water –and the troubles that come with the search for it –in the Bongo District is leaving scores of women in that part of the Upper East Region with no choice but to walk out on their marriages.

Fifteen such divorce cases were recorded in 2013 at Gambrongo, a community near Zorkor in the district due to the water crisis. The women in the community travel in groups through thick forests in search of water. Young and old, they walk three kilometres back and forth everyday to fetch water from a faraway river that separates Bongo from the Kasena-Nankana West District”.

Additionally, statistics from the Forestry Commission suggest that, about 38,000 hectares of tree cover are lost yearly in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana. Is it surprising that, the average rainfall figures from 2004 to 2010 have reduced drastically from 1,243.24, to 364.85 millimetres?

Recent studies on the water situation in Northern Ghana showed that the area is endowed with surface water and much less of groundwater resources. The area is relatively dry, with a single rainy season that begins in June or July and ends in October. Available surface water is about 1, 737 billion gallons per annum which is about 19 percent of the total annual national figure of 40 billion m3. However, this amount is not available all year round as most of the rivers draining the region dwindle to hardly any or no flow in the dry season with only pockets of stagnant water remaining because of the high seasonal rainfall variation.

The region for instance, has an estimated population rate of 3 percent according to the 2010 Population and Housing Census. The implication is that population is steadily increasing but the water resources are not available throughout the year. This results in water rationing, creates conflict for water among residents.

The Ghana Water Company Limited has plans to expand water access from the Yapei and Oti Rivers to communities which lack it, but the attitude of citizens of the Northern Region and Ghana as a whole towards payment of water bills leaves much to be desired. It is easy to predict that more money is invested in the water sector by government every year but less is recouped as profit for reinvestment.  

According to Mr. Asedem, since 1985 till date, World Vision and its partners in the Afram Plains as well as Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, have reached 1, 458,700 people in 1, 849 communities and 219 institutions with water, hygiene and sanitation services and facilities.

Besides, 2, 783 wet wells have been fitted with hand pumps and provided with aprons and laundry pads; 133 boreholes rehabilitated; 39 alternative water sources provided; 10,102 household latrines built; 34 institutional latrines built; and 5,651 pump maintenance volunteers trained, he added. 

Indeed, the provision of these resources by World Vision and other non-governmental organisations to water stressed communities will all come to naught, if Ghanaians do not stop polluting water bodies because of gold; and stop indiscriminate felling of trees and bushfires, and instead, intensify creation of tree plantations from the family levels to community, district, regional and national levels.  

All stakeholders in water and energy sectors, Mr. Asedem recommends, must work together to reduce the existing gaps for adequate supply of water and energy to communities. Adding, he said government and stakeholders ought to work to promote environmentally sound interventions in manufacturing and industry for effective and significant reduction in environmental degradation which impacts negatively on water and energy supply.

All Ghanaians must begin to practice water conservation by harvesting rain water during the rainy season and use human excreta to farm and produce energy for domestic use. By so doing, money you would have spent on water bills can be used to address other problems whereas the importation of artificial fertiliser would also be reduced since their usage is not effective as compared to human excreta. By doing this we would have learned our lessons better other than that, we should just forget it and get ready to die of thirst.

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