Water is ranked second to oxygen as essential element for life, more than half of the human body weight is made of water. This explains why it is very important for life on earth (Abane, 2005). Water is used in various aspects of our daily lives including cooking, generation of electricity, washing and many others. Access to basic Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) are crucial factors in enabling people live healthy lives. Inadequate WASH contributes to several diseases such as diarrhea which is the third largest killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa (CHERG, 2012).
In Sub-Saharan Africa, progress is been made to ensure that people have access to water. A 7 percent increase in access was recorded between 1990 and 2004 (WHO &UNICEF, 2006). The National Water Policy of Ghana has the intention of providing a framework for the sustainable development of Ghana’s water resources. It recognizes the various cross-sectional issues related to water use and the links to other relevant sectarian policies such as those in sanitation, agriculture, transport, energy and many others. According to the National Water Policy (2007), water in Ghana is obtained from two sources; surface water and ground water. Surface water sources are mainly from the river systems. Water is also harvested from rain. Rain water has a great potential of increasing the availability of water for households and other institutions and ground water is extracted from rock aquifers. Ground water is the most common source of potable water in many parts of Ghana. In northern Ghana about 80 percent of the rural inhabitants depend on ground water (Ghana National Water Policy, 2007).
The sustainable development goal 6 has the intention of ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Efforts are therefore been made by various governments and international organizations to make sure that people get access to a regular supply of potable water. In Ghana, the issue isn’t different. Several governments have tried their best to extend water supplies to various part of the country. In December, 1998, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency was established by an act of parliament (ACT 564) with the mandate to facilitate the provision of safe drinking water and related sanitation services to rural communities and small towns in Ghana. Other institutions established by the government included the Ghana Water Company Limited. This company is responsible for the production and distribution of potable water to the urban population which constitutes about 40 percent of the entire Ghanaian population.
Despite these tremendous efforts been made by various government and international bodies to ensure that there is a regular and a sustainable supply of potable water to residents, there are several factors that tend to hinder the progress been made in championing this agenda.
During the recent celebration of the International World Water day (22/03/2017), Mr. David Duncan the director for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), revealed that three out of five Ghanaian drinking water sources are reported to be contaminated by human waste. This therefore kept the people who consumed water from these sources at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever and polio. Also according to Ing Peter Deveer the Accra West Regional director of the Ghana Water Company Limited, Ghana as a nation is at grave risk of importing water in the next ten to twenty years. He also mentioned that Ghana has badly polluted water sources that tend to increase the cost of water treatment. World wide it is estimated that 663 million people are living without safe water supply close to their homes. This therefore forced them to trek to distance places in search for water. Wasting precious time and copping with the health hazards of consuming contaminated water.
Some Causes of Water Pollution in Ghana
Water is said to be polluted when there is a direct or indirect discharge of pollutants into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds. Water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and ground water gets contaminated when people indiscriminately dump waste materials (pollutants) into them. In Ghana today the major causes of water pollutions includes the following:
Sewage and Waste Water
Daily, we cook, do laundry, flush the toilet, wash our cars, shower and do many things that use water. In schools, hospitals and public places, water is used. In many developed communities, this waste water is treated, cleaned and dumped into the sea or river. Unlike these developed communities, in many Ghanaian communities this sewage (waste water) are not treated but are quickly dumped into the sea and other water bodies. This water from the contaminated bodies comes back to us through the natural cycle of water and it’s been consumed by unsuspecting individuals. These individuals are therefore exposed to a lot of health hazards including diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, polio and many others deadly water born diseases.
According to Wikipedia, a galamsey is a local artisanal gold miner in Ghana, West Africa; such workers are known as orpailleurs in neighboring francophone nations. Galamseys are people who do gold mining independent of mining companies, digging small working (pits, tunnels and sluices) by hand. The lucrative nature of this business is the very reason why it has spread to most parts of the country. Many people see it as the quickest and the fastest way of making money. Many however forgets the negative effects this phenomenon is having on our water bodies and environment. According to Kojo Asante a research fellow at the Center for Democratic Development, illegal mining has become a norm in recent times because societies are aggrieved that a chunk of revenue generated from natural resources within their respective locations go to the central government. It has been said that, areas where natural resources are extracted are mostly deprived of social amenities and residents live in abject poverty. According to Mr. Asante, residents in areas where natural resources are found, especially gold, feel cheated and thus indulge in illegal mining also known as galamsey. This menace has affected quite a number of water treatment plants.
Currently some water treatment plants in some parts of the country have been shut down due to the activities of illegal miners, which have polluted the water bodies from which the plants collect water from for processing. This therefore puts Ghana at the risk of having to import water if nothing is done in the next ten to twenty years.
According to recent reports (3news.com), Ghana has been ranked second in Africa when it comes to open defecation. With 19 per cent of its population resorting to sanitation practice deemed the riskiest of all. Within Ghana, Upper East region topped the chat with 89 percent of its population engaging in open defecation. The northern region came second then followed the Upper West region. According to the chief director of the Northern Region Coordinating Council Mr Ishsahaku Alhassan, open defecation cost the country about $79 million a year and posses as one of the greatest dangers to human health. One may asked, how does open defecation lead to water pollution? In many communities in Ghana people obtain their drinking water from river systems, lakes or springs. When people defecate in the open, these fecal matter is been carried by water when it rains to these rivers, streams or lakes. This fecal matter mixes with the water and pollutes it. The unsuspecting residents comes back to fetch their drinking water from these contaminated water bodies. The cycle continues with its numerous health hazards and implications.
The Way Forward
One cannot underestimate the negative effects of pollution on our water bodies. Drastic measures therefore needs to be taken to help curb this menace.
There is the need for a strong political will towards dealing with issues of water and sanitation. A social policy specialist of UNICEF revealed that the World Bank will soon withdraw its grants support on water and sanitation due to the lack of political will shown towards water and sanitation issues in Ghana. Ghanaians should learn how to see issues from a nationalistic perspective and stop been partisan.
It is well known that the financiers and owners of most of these galamsey businesses that erode our lands and destroy our water bodies are politicians, business men and people held in high esteem. It is only when we assume a nationalistic posture that such people can be dealt with. Cutting the source of funding will go a long way to help minimize galamsey if not halting it completely. We cannot continue to play ignorance, the critiques are enough. A better Ghana is all we desire notwithstanding who resides at the flagstaff house.
Corporate organizations and individuals also have a great role to play in helping preserve our water bodies. It is commendable that a corporate social entity like ‘citi fm’ has taken it upon its self to embark on a ‘#StopGalamsayNow’ campaign. More of such actions are needed to help curb this menace. Much public education needs to be done. So that many people can be educated on the risk that lies ahead of Ghana as a country should its citizens continue with the current practices that degrade our environment and water bodies
It is sad to know that the three regions in the northern part of Ghana lead with the number of Non Governmental Organizations that are into Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) yet these regions top the chart when it comes to open defecation. One is therefore tempted to question the works of these NGO’s. These NGO’s need to restructure their intervention programmes to levels that residents can comprehend and put into practice in their daily lives. This will go a long way to help curb the menace of open defecation which ends up polluting our water bodies.
There is also the need for some investment to be made by individuals, organizations, water management institutions and government in the water sector. Individuals and organizations should take it upon themselves to invest in technological equipments that can be used in the recycling and treatment of waste water. If Ghana as a nation is able to treat much of its waste water, it will go a long way to reducing the amount of waste water that is dumped into our rivers, lakes or dams hence polluting them
Man can survive without food for some days but am not sure a man can survive without water for a day. Water is an essential element in the daily life of a man. It is used in undertaking a lot of activities. This therefore explains why water sources should be treated with outmost care in order not to deplete them. Sustainability of our water supply sources should be key in the agenda of every government, individual or an organization. The future generations will need water to survive just like the current generation. No man should therefore be allowed to engage in any activity that will endanger the lives of the future generation in terms of access to potable and sustainable water supply. Appropriate measures should be kept in place to protect our water supply sources and to save Ghana the risk of having to import water in the next ten to twenty years.
MA Development Management
University of Cape Coast