Twenty four (24) percent of urban dwellers have no access to portable drinking water, a report by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Works and Housing has revealed.
“Currently, urban water coverage stands at 76%. This is a significant improvement from the initial 64% in 2015. This means that about 24% of the urban dwellers are yet to be covered.
Though the Committee views the 76% coverage in 2016 as commendable, it strongly believes that the 24% of the population without access to water supply is unacceptable as it also affects their human rights.” the report said.
Various sources estimate that Ghana’s population could reach 32.2million in 2020, with about 57 percent living in urban communities, a situation that will put more pressure on existing water resources and treatment plants.
The situation is further compounded by the growing menace of illegal mining, otherwise known as galamsey. Major water bodies such as Pra, Ankobrah, Densu and the Birim have been polluted by the activities of galamsey operators.
The Sanitation and Water Resources Minister, Mr. Kofi Adda, has warned that the country may have to import drinking water if the pollution of these water bodies is not stopped.
Hundreds of communities living along the banks of these water bodies are now unable to use it for their daily chores. Urban dwellers, who rely on treated water drawn from these water bodies, have had to contend with water shortages over the years.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Ms Christine Evans-Klock, recently noted that three out of every five people drink water contaminated by faeces, risking diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Members of the Committee therefore urged the Ministry to ensure that all on-going projects are pursued and new ones undertaken to increase the coverage for portable water.
They further appealed to government to provide additional resources from the Contingency Fund to enable the Ministry to complete on-going, abandoned and broken down water system to enable the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to water.
On-going water projects include: Wa Water Supply Expansion Project, Kwahu Ridge, Konongo and Kumawu Water Supply Project, Urban Water Subsequent Year Investment Program (SYIP), the Cape Coast Water Supply Project, and the Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly (GAMA) Water and Sanitation Project.
According to Oxfam, the main traditional sources of water in many parts of rural Ghana are small ponds and unprotected wells, both of which are easily polluted, causing diseases to the people who drink from these sources.
Compared to the rest of the country, the three northern regions of Ghana are particularly deprived of clean drinking water, with one in ten children reportedly dying before their fifth birthday due to some water-related illnesses.
Statistics also indicate that safe drinking water and good sanitation bring huge benefits. They cut the death toll from disease, lift the long-term burden of ill-health and release many hours spent fetching water every day for more productive activity.
African economies have reportedly lost an estimated USD$19.3 million in recent years because of poor sanitation.
It is to highlight this importance that the UN marks World Water Day every year on March 22. The aim is to celebrate progress made and encourage countries to redouble efforts to ensure that every family reaps the reward of safe and reliable water supply.