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By Kwesi Atta Sakyi 6th January 2014
After one month sojourn in Ghana during the Christmas festive season, I had a taste of the hard life in Ghana in recent times. As many Ghanaians entered the New Year with high expectations, they tried to erase from their memory the trying moments of Dum So (blackouts) and water blues which characterised 2013.
However, the people of Winneba in the Effutu Constituency in the Central Region of Ghana are unsure whether at any moment they will be cut off water supply as there are no announcements or forewarning whatsoever when water is disconnected. To add salt to injury, the water running in the taps stinks like ditch water. I wonder whether Winnebarians are enjoying the fruits of the Better Ghana Agenda. My woes worsened when ECG took power on the third day of my arrival, and I said, oh la laaaaaa!
Yet, Winneba is a municipality with a District Assembly, and there is a large student population at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW). The town also boasts of a brand new Trauma and Accidents Hospital, a new District Court, a Nursing Training School, The Sports College, The Winneba Senior High Secondary School, among other institutions. Winneba is a major tourist town because of its cultural activities and beautiful natural landscape, including pristine beaches, lagoon and rolling plains, bird sanctuary and bluish mountain ranges.
When one drinks the water currently running in the taps in Winneba, one feels a nauseating sensation similar to decaying matter. This makes you realise that all is not well with the water utility company, Ghana Water Company, which pumps water from the pumping station from the Ayensu River. Millions of dollars of donor money was pumped into the project by the Dutch Government about a decade ago, and it is very pathetic that such a crucial facility meant to service a very wide area in the Winneba vicinity is being treated to the Cinderella and shambolic looks.
This is the result of privatisation because the private company pursues profit motive as against the public corporation which pursues public interest at minimum cost pursued. How many people in Ghana can buy drinking water all the time? Majority poor Ghanaians who cannot afford Pure Water or Insu or treated commercialised water are at great risk of contracting many water-borne diseases.
The Ghana Water Company has virtual monopoly of the market, save competition from bottled and sachet water private companies whose water is for sale for only drinking. Perhaps, the scarcity of treated water from Ghana Water Company is due to demand exceeding supply, as many construction works are ongoing in Ghana.
Yet, we have an MP in the person of Mr Alex Afenyo Markin, and an MCE in the person of Mr Nii Eprhaim. The Station Manager of the Water Station is one Mr Laryeah. One wonders whether all these government appointees are ahead of their game or they are aware of the dire situation on the ground. Water is life, because drinking dirty or untreated water can lead to the outbreak of many water-borne diseases such as Burulli Ulcer, Typhoid Fever, Malaria, Cholera, Guinea Worm, Dysentery, Onchocersiasis (river blindness), among others.
This writer was welcomed to Ghana with 5 consecutive days of dry tap. When he talked to one of the employees, he learnt that the water level was low and there were some repair works being carried out somewhere. His fears were confirmed when one Assemblyman he called confessed that the water quality in the taps was bad.
Another close neighbour with a lot of insider knowledge hinted that the maintenance of the tanks was hardly done. It was also alleged that some chemicals like alum and chlorine which were meant for water purification at the Winneba Waterworks were pilfered by the workers and sold to people in the private sector.
This is a sad turn of events and it is tantamount to sabotage. Treated-water sparkles, and it is odourless, colourless and it does not accumulate sediments when stored in a container for long. We cannot say so for the water running in the taps in Winneba. One would have thought that the powers that be would have safety of residents uppermost in their schema of things.
The water delivered to residents is not free as each household pays by meter, and they are hard put to it paying water bills. I think they are being short-changed. This situation in Winneba holds true for many towns and cities in Ghana. The earlier something was done to ameliorate and rectify the situation, the better it would be for all of us.
On 17th July 2012, on that fateful day when Prof John Atta Mills died, I travelled from Winneba to Nsawam to visit my niece. On my way, I passed by the Kwanyaako Waterworks, which in contrast to the Winneba Waterworks looked far more spick and span, with well-maintained grounds, sparkling white walls, no overgrown bushes and a general sense of care and maintenance could be garnered from the looks of their environs.
I bowed down my head in shame when I returned to Winneba to see the unkempt and abandoned Winneba Waterworks. The about 6 kilometre access road to the place is untarred with many potholes. Getting to the Waterworks from Winneba township is not an attractive proposition to many motorists, especially taxi drivers. The surrounding area is a fast developing residential area, yet the access road to this all-important public utility is in shambles. Can TV3 and other media houses do an investigative story on this issue?
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) have become critical issues in Ghana, with Winneba being no exception. On the 6th of January 2014, Ghanaweb published an article entitled Water for each Ghanaian reduces from 110 barrels to 48 barrels. The said article was culled from Graphic Online issue of 17th December 2013. According to Mr Minta Aboagye, former Director at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ghana is water-stressed.
The article stated that the FAO estimates that in 1960 when Ghana’s population was 6.5 million, the average Ghanaian at the time had a per capita ration of water of 110 barrels per day. That dwindled by 60% to 48 barrels per head in 2013, and it is projected that by 2050 when Ghana’s population hits 40 million, per capita water ration in Ghana will be 18 barrels.
This is a bleak and gloomy Malthusian spectre staring us in the face. What with increased galamsey ( illegal gold mining), forest burning, charcoal burning, slash and burn wrong farming methods, among other causative factors. An intervention to conserve Ghana’s water resources is to teach children in schools to know more about geography and the deleterious effects of wanton destruction of bush burning which accelerate global warming.
We need national child policy to control population explosion. We need long term planning such as establishment of water farming projects, tree planting and serious forest conservation in the water catchment areas, proper town planning and drainage systems, consideration of establishing desalination plants as we have in Israel, consideration of tapping the enormous underground water aquifer or reservoir under the Sahara Desert through regional cooperation, among others.
In conclusion, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), which is under the auspices and ambit of the Vice-Presidency should map out strategies in consultation with cooperating partners such as SIDA, UNDP, World Bank, WaterAid, IFAD, FAO etc to establish interventions throughout Ghana on how to protect our scarce water resources and regenerate them.
Ode to Winneba Waterworks
Winneba Waterworks water stinks and stains the sinks
Sometimes for days on end the taps run dry
Residents go wild scavenging for water from far and wide
Long treks they make with gallons and containers galore
It is a sin to pay for metred water which is polluted
The water runs in fits and starts
When will water blues abate in Ghana?
Methinks something sinister is brewing
Hold your breath
The water stinks
Let the message sink
Sachet and bottled water producers are in cahoots
With water utility companies to cheat
They play Tartuffe, toying with people’s lives
They pose challenging heights to scale
Oh my brother, is Ghana on sale?
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi ©2013
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