Unsustainable Development a Threat to Ghana’s Water Sector: Official

ACCRA, Ghana

A top government official in Ghana has warned that pressure on natural resources, as the country strives for 8 percent economic growth, could trigger a water crisis in the country over the long term.

Director for Water at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing Fredrick Addai said on October 3rd that Ghana could face a water security crisis if the government does not intervene to stop what he called a “spate of unsustainable development.”

Like a number of other African countries, Ghana is struggling with high population growth, environmental degradation and a weak regulatory regime to govern increasing exploitation of oil and gas resources.

Addai told a water forum in Accra that the quality and quantity of the West African nation’s water is declining.

"These two simple facts pose a threat to our existence, because at all times we need good quality water in the right quantity for all we do," Ghanaian media quoted Addai as saying.

He said some of the development programs the government is implementing, especially in the energy sector, are generating waste and pollutants that can destroy ecosystems.

"While our acts impact negatively on our environment, climate change brings its own charges to exacerbate the situation, manifesting itself through availability of poor quality and quantity resources of water."

Addai urged Ghanaians “to buy into the idea of water resource conservation and protection, and by so doing, save their own lives.”

“As a people, we must take up the responsibility to reverse this trend. We must draw the attention of all Ghanaians to the calamity ahead if we don't change this trajectory,” he said.

The minister’s concerns came at a time when the Water Resources Commission, the Ghana Country Water Partnership, local representatives of the Global Water Partnership, and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) are teaming up to mobilize water consumers, investors and other stakeholders to protect water resources under the country’s Medium-Term Development Framework of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda for 2014/17.

The agenda calls for policy interventions to address current challenges in access to safe water and sanitation. Specifically, it aims to address the problems of inadequate access to quality, affordable water; poor water resource management; inadequate access to sanitation facilities and poor sanitation service delivery; inaccessible and unfriendly environmental, water and sanitation facilities; poor environmental sanitation; poor hygiene practices and inadequate hygiene education; and inadequate financing for environmental sanitation services.

The growth and development agenda admits there is “inadequate information on environmental impacts, inadequate capacity to manage environmental impacts and inadequate public awareness of the potential and impact of the oil and gas resources on the nation’s development prospects.”

However, it promises deliberate moves to strengthen the regulatory framework and ensure protection of the environment based on international best practice.

“This will require persistent and stringent monitoring of activities and evaluation of impacts on an ongoing basis,” it said.

Director General of NDPC Nii Moi Thompson said that when the Medium-Term Development Framework is complete, all Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies would factor water resource conservation into their plan preparations.

"They will mobilize and take steps to allocate resources to implement measures that would sustain the benefits derived from our ecosystem," said Thompson.