The activities of some mining companies still threaten to roll back Ghana?s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) water achievements, a study has concluded.
While the government of Ghana works hard to meet the MDGs on universal water coverage, the activities of mining firms make surface water on which most communities depend unwholesome.
In addition to that, it makes expenditure by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) in water treatment unsustainable.
This study evaluated the impact of gold mining within the Pra basin from natural science and socioeconomic perspectives.
The Pra River, which rises in the Kwahu Plateau near Mpraeso, 156 km north of the capital, and flows southward for 240 km through rich cocoa and farming areas and valuable forests in the Akan lowlands, enters the Gulf of Guinea at a point between Cape Coast and Takoradi, 144 km and 218 km west respectively of the capital.
?The original moist semi-deciduous forest has been reduced to secondary forest in the inland areas while along the coast grassland and shrubs remain, with the water being too turbid due to illegal gold mining activities,? the study said.
It was commissioned by the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) with support from the European Union (EU).
The negative human activities, according to the study, also contribute to making the vegetation type to change over the years throughout the basin.
Samuel Obiri, one of the research scientists, said that these activities had also resulted in the release of toxic chemicals such as heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese) into the river.
He commented during the release of the document at a day?s dissemination workshop here Thursday that the release of such toxic chemicals into the rivers was of great environmental concern because of their potential long-term effects on human health.
According to him, health hazards included the inducement of ailments such as cancers, hyper pigmentation of the skin or keratosis, particularly in developing countries where remedial techniques did not exist.
Officials of the GWCL at Daboase, near Takoradi, 218 km west of the capital, claim that raw water from the Pra is being contaminated through mining and agricultural activities.
According to them, treating contaminants in water is the third largest cost item on their list of production costs of water services.
The water company has been compelled to procure and use large volumes of chemicals in treating and making water wholesome.
?Communities along these rivers, who are not fortunate to have their water treated, are ingesting contaminated raw water into their system,? cautioned Obiri.
?We have come to the point where somebody has to say ?enough is enough? to the way water bodies are treated in this country,? Fred Addai, Head of the Water Directorate at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, said in his opening remarks.
He said there were communities the GWCL was considering sinking boreholes to deliver underground water to the people since it was becoming too expensive to treat polluted surface water, especially in mining communities.
In her intervention, Chairman for CONIWAS, Mariam Don-Chebe, noted that safe drinking water and adequate sanitation had a major impact on very sensitive areas of development such as health, education, wealth creation and gender equity.
She cautioned that education was strongly influenced by the availability of decent sanitation and water supply in both homes and schools, adding: ?When it comes to gender, women bear all the brunt of the burden when these facilities are not accessible.?
In Ghana, the government seeks to achieve universal access to water for citizens by 2025.
This, the GWCL says, needs 2.0 billion U.S. dollars to be able to build up enough treatment plants and also rehabilitate old dilapidated ones to ensure increased water production to attain 100 percent coverage nationwide.
However, experts fear that, no matter how many treatment plants are built, this dream could be aborted if water sources are not protected. Enditem