Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah

The Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources has expressed worry over the deteriorating condition of Ghana’s water ecosystems following a surge in illegal mining activities and improper waste disposal of solid and liquid waste, among others.

Cecilia Abena Dapaah said this in a statement to mark the 2020 World Water Day on the theme ‘Water and Climate Change’.

 According to the Minister, despite the gains the Akufo-Addo administration has made in stalling the activities of illegal miners and Ghana’s efforts to achieve Paris 2015, a gradual reverse in gain is affecting the provision of water supply.

“A fundamental issue that confronts us as a nation is that our water ecosystems are not in a healthy state. Illegal mining (galamsey), and improper liquid and solid waste disposal, among others, have affected the quality of water bodies.

“The proportion of rivers with poor ambient water quality at the end 0f 2016 was 61% of which 15% was considered critical. The proportion dropped to 47% at the end of 2018, implying 53% were of fairly good quality, which was attributed mainly to the fight against illegal mining ‘galamsey’.

“However, the situation has been gradually reversing since the end 0f 2019, resulting in increasing cost and operational difficulties for the provision of water supply,” she stated.

Madam Cecilia Dapaah said the current situation called for “a mixture of initiatives such as large-scale initiatives to protect the quality of water supply; and small-scale initiatives at the community level to manage and store much-needed water.”

She also urged policymakers to avoid quick fixes in solving Ghana’s water problem “and focus on cross-sectoral efforts and strategies that are based on a solid understanding of the impacts of climate change on water resources management and water supply services delivery.”

She said such measures and strategies would enable us achieve a cleaner and better water that would improve our welfare and overall socio-economic development.

Read the full text below:

STATEMENT BY HON. CECILIA ABENA DAPAAH

MINISTER FOR SANITATION AND WATER RESOURCES

ON WORLD WATER DAY (MARCH 22, 2020)

The United Nations (UN) has designated 22 March of every year as International World Water Day to focus global attention on the importance of water. States are invited to devote the Day, as appropriate in the national context, to concrete activities on the theme on water chosen to reflect the utilization, conservation and development of water resources.

World Water Day 2020 is on the theme ‘Water and Climate Change’, and addresses our quest for water security in the context of an ever-changing environment, where climate change takes center stage. Indeed, water is one of the most urgent issues to manage and should be in the center of every strategic effort on sustainable development.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on safe water and adequate sanitation for all is interlinked and has a profound effect on achieving many other goals including SDG 13 on climate action.  By adapting to the water effects of climate change, we will protect health and save lives.  And, by using water more efficiently, we will reduce greenhouse gases.  

For instance, if we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we could cut climate-induced water stress by up to 50%, while climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.

Since Paris 2015, Ghana has made efforts towards reducing emissions from deforestation through conservation practices, enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and land-use mitigation measures which are known as the nationally determined contributions. 

Ghana has also made significant progress in the provision of basic drinking water services to the population. The noteworthy investments made to improve water supply and sanitation services have increased the population with access to improved drinking water sources from 78% in 2017 to 81% in 2019, while the population with safely managed drinking water sources also increased from 27% in 2017 to 36% in 2019. However, basic access to drinking water sources moved from 51% in 2017 to 45% in 2019. Actually, the Ghana Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2017/2018 indicates that eight in every ten household populations in the country are using at least basic drinking water services. 

Despite the progress made, more is required to limit the impacts of climate change on water. For example, the increased rainfall intensity and variability that are being experienced increase the risks of flooding and drought in many areas, especially the northern regions. Such risks damage our built and natural water infrastructure, contaminate groundwater resources, and overstretch sanitation facilities thereby compounding the challenge of ensuring access to water and sanitation services by the poor and vulnerable groups. Furthermore, climate change potentially impact on water demand leading to increased concerns over maintenance of ecological flows, protection of habitats, and sewage disposal.

A fundamental issue that confronts us as a nation is that our water ecosystems are not in a healthy state. Illegal mining ‘galamsey’, and improper liquid and solid waste disposal, among others, have affected the quality of water bodies. The proportion of rivers with poor ambient water quality at the end 0f 2016 was 61% of which 15% was considered critical.

The proportion dropped to 47% at the end of 2018, implying 53% were of fairly good quality, which was attributed mainly to the fight against illegal mining ‘galamsey’.  However, the situation has been gradually reversing since the end 0f 2019, resulting in increasing cost and operational difficulties for the provision of water supply.

Hence, the measures need to be reinforced and sustained since water pollution, which also exacerbates climate change, continues to be a major issue, especially within the southwestern river system including the Pra, Tano, Bia and Ankobra basins.

The reality of such climate change impacts is a call for us to adjust and develop diverse but well-coordinated strategies and investments to mitigate or adapt to the new conditions.  It is also a fundamental call for us to utilize water in ways to help reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution, and help fight climate change itself.

A mixture of initiatives such as large- scale initiatives to protect the quality of water supply; and small-scale initiatives at the community level to manage and store water is needed. Rural communities also play an important role in practical technology in such areas as rainwater capture and the effective use of forest reserves for water catchment. Furthermore, our actions should avoid quick fixes and focus on cross-sectoral efforts and strategies that are based on a solid understanding of the impacts of climate change on water resources management and water supply services delivery.

Ghana’s policy responses to water security and climate have consciously included mainstreaming climate change programs and actions in a time-bound manner into national development plans. The process of reviewing the National Water Policy is also an opportunity to advance policy direction by redefining stakeholder dialogue to include looking beyond water, targeting evidence based decision-making, and adapting to change to suit local conditions.

Better access to information is at the heart of any response to climate change; the ability to respond effectively to climate change impacts is determined by the accessibility and quality of the information available. For this reason, the water sector information system is to be modified to incorporate scientific knowledge and local knowledge systems in response to Ghana’s highly variable climate.

Our built and natural water infrastructure are long-term assets that need to be resilient and monitored to cope with climate change pressures and reduce the heavy and repeated burden on Ghana’s financial and human capital. Therefore, it is time to promote robust and ‘low regrets’ water infrastructure and practices that are resilient to climate change for water security. Simple water and sanitation technologies should consider gender and vulnerable group dimensions and be resilient and adaptive to highly susceptible areas such as flooding areas.

We are not in normal times when the world, including Ghana, is currently facing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Water plays an important role in keeping ourselves safe from exposure to the deadly virus. Clearly, advice and opinion from every quarter is not hard to come by, but still, amongst the best advice we have is to wash our hands a lot.  We are all therefore entreated to encourage and share knowledge and experience with whom it matters for a positive chain reaction across the entire country.

Remember that World Water Day is an opportunity for everyone to get involved – water is everybody’s business and water is change.  Let us foster dialogue to find solutions that would enable us achieve clean and better water that would improve our wellbeing and overall socioeconomic development.