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Opinions Wed, 1 Jan 2014

Protect the source of Accra’s drinking water supply before it is too late

Not many of the residents of Ghana's capital city, Accra, are aware of the tenuousness of their drinking water supply. The unfathomable greed of gold miners (both legally registered ones and illegal operators) is slowly destroying the delicate ecology of the area that provides the headwaters of the three major river systems that a large part of urban southern Ghana, including Accra, relies on for its drinking water supply: the Densu, Birim and Ayensu rivers - and threatening its long-term sustainability.

To prevent an apocalyptic future, when no treated water runs through taps in homes, schools, offices and factories in Accra, from occurring, all mining must be banned immediately from the whole of the Atewa Range, in Akyem Abuakwa - so as to protect what is a designated Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA): and save it from from super-ruthless predators, who don't care one jot about the effect of their actions on others, and on the natural environment, in their selfish quest for gold.

Active steps must be taken as soon as practicable, to preserve what remains of the upland evergreen rainforest in the Atewa Range - gazetted as a forest reserve in the early 1920's. One doubts very much whether severe shortages of treated water will not become a permanent feature of life in Accra, in the not too distant future, if that extreme measure is not taken now. The situation on the ground is actually that bad.

To prevent what will be misery in Accra on a scale that is hard to imagine, from occurring, it is crucial that all the District Assemblies in Akyem Abuakwa are encouraged to embrace the low-carbon development model - by ensuring that they and the residents of the area benefit financially from the preservation of the remainder of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest.

The ecosystem services that that important rainforest provides Accra's population are priceless - and devoting a small percentage of the amount paid by consumers in Accra to benefit the area financially, will guarantee the continued provision of those ecosystem services. It is indeed a small price for water consumers in Accra to pay, for a precious gift of nature, without which life on the planet Earth cannot be sustained.

The decision to turn the Atewa Forest Reserve - and the land bordering it - into a national park is in the right direction. The revenues derived from ecotourism will provide a sustainable future for the area's economy - and ensure a better quality of life for all who live there

Above all, it will help protect the source of Accra's drinking water supply: an important national security consideration that ought to attract the immediate attention of the powers that be. They must act now before it becomes too late to prevent a future catastrophe from occurring. A word to the wise...

Columnist: Kofi Thompson