DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION CALL FOR LONG-TERM SECURITY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF GHANA’S WATER PROVISIONING SYSTEMS

An urgent inter-sectorial effort is needed by all responsible state agencies and civil society organizations to secure Ghana’s water towers and reservoirs, such as the Atewa Forest Reserve, so they can continue to provide critical services of providing water for the Ghanaian populace now and in the future. This is the joint statement released on the 17th of December, 2015 by A Rocha Ghana, a conservation organization working in partnership with the Royal Netherlands Embassy as part of the Ghana Netherlands WASH Program (GNWP).

This call came against the backdrop of the premiering of a much awaited documentary dedicated to drawing government and public support to saving Ghana’s water resources in the face of increasing activities of illegal mining of alluvial gold and certain minerals in our river beds, and within the catchment of important water towers in Ghana. This is also an issuewhich according to the Ghana Water Company is one of the major reasons for the need for water tariff increment attributed to the increasing poor quality of water available for treatment.

The documentary dubbed, “Atewa Forest: Living Water from the Mountain” highlights the major challenges facing  the Atewa Forest Reserve, Ghana’s last remaining water tower. Atewa Forest Reserve is an upland evergreen cloud forest located in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and is currently the source of water for three major rivers, the Ayensu, Densu and the Birim. The Densu Delta is the source of water for the Weija Water Reservoir, the main source of potable drinking water for more than 60% of the population in Accra.

The statement observed that a careful analysis of the water resource base in Ghana, shows clearly that as a country our challenge is not an issue of inadequate water resources but more an issue of a lack of long-term holistic planning, investment and management, resulting in a lack of equitable and sustainable supplies of safe drinking water and associated high tariffs.

The press release recalls that during the early days leading to the tariff increment, the public had the opportunity to engage with the Ghana Water Company, and one of the reasons that also came up as responsible for the need for tariff increment was the high cost of treating poor quality water coming from the various sources to our treatment centres in Weija and other places in Ghana.  Activities of illegal mining of alluvial gold (alias "Galamsey") and certain minerals in our river beds, and within the catchment of important water towers in Ghana have been attributed to the increasing poor quality of water available for treatment and its subsequent distribution first to our homes, offices and factories.

Polluted Water at an Abandoned Mining Site

Further to this, the Chief Manager for the Ghana Water Company Limited indicated recently that the company had spent 1.5 Million USD in the last 3 years on equipment and personnel and will require 2 Billion Dollars to achieve 100% access coverage by 2025. The joint statement posed a critical question asking whether these investments take into consideration the status of the natural sources of water feeding the various reservoirs and treatment stations across the country.

The partnership also observed that many communities from the south to the north of the Ghana are faced with dire shortage of fresh water resource due to the pollution caused by uncontrolled illegal activities of mining in our streams, riverbeds and water towers, but however recognized that these challenges can be addressed by cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies with continuous development cooperation and civil society support.

The statement presented the following critical actions as key to reverse Ghana’s many challenges related to the provision of water to achieve 100 % coverage across the entire country.

  • Water is life, and we urge that all efforts should be made by responsible state agencies and civil society to secure our water towers, such as the Atewa Forest Reserve, so they can continue to provide the critical services of providing water for the Ghanaian populace now and in the future.
  • We urge responsible state agencies to attach equal significance to securing watersheds by employing both deterrent and collaborative efforts.
  • We urge responsible state agencies, civil society and development partners to support immediate collaborative and compliance measures complimented with livelihood skills development and opportunities for individuals who are engaged in this unsustainable practices of illegal mining in the short, medium and long-term.
  • Critically, we urge that the protection status of Atewa Forest Reserve, which is currently the source of water for over 5 Million Ghanaians, including many Accra citizens, should be raised from a forest reserve to a National Park to accord it a higher management regulations and security so it can continue to provide its critical water provisioning services.
  • There is a need to work in a spirit of urgent cooperation and inter-sectoral coordination, where agencies such as , the Water Resources Commission, Minerals Commission, Forestry Commission , Ghana Water Company Limited and Civil Society organizations sit at the same table when planning sustainable resource allocation, exploitation and management that enhances  ecosystem functions.
  • To the general public, we call for collective action, patriotism and responsibility in securing our water bodies and watersheds as we stand to lose by directly paying for the cost of environmental destruction, a case in point is the present water tariff increment which is partly as a result of high treatment costs of polluted water bodies resulting from illegal mining activities in our water bodies.

A Rocha Ghana is currently working in partnership with the Water Resources Commission, the Forestry Commission, the International Union of Conservation of Nature Netherlands Committee as well as the Ghana Project Office of IUCN and in partnership with the Coalition of NGOs against Mining in Atewa (CONAMA), to implement a broad stakeholder engagement project dubbed "Living Water from the Mountain; Protecting Atewa Water Resources”, with support from the Royal Netherlands Embassy of Ghana with a face value of 1.5 Million Euros.The overall goal of the project is to “Achieve long term protection and sustainable management of Atewa forest as a public good for securing livelihoods and water management, mitigating climate change impacts and conserving global biodiversity.”

 

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