Friday, July 6, 2012

Ghana Moves to Save Drying Water Bodies

The Ghanaian government has instituted measures to fight the gradual depletion of rivers and water bodies, Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Enoch Teye Mensah announced here on Tuesday.

The Water Resources Commission, an agency of the ministry with the mandate to regulate and manage the country's water resources, has accordingly developed a program to conserve and preserve water bodies.

The program, dubbed the "Riparian Buffer Zone Policy", is intended to develop and maintain buffers, that is areas or bands of natural or planted vegetation located between land and water bodies.

"Buffer zones provide valuable socio-economic services, including creation of jobs in the planting and maintenance of economic trees, generation of income from valuable timber and non- timber forest products such as fruits and forage; provision of potable water supply for local communities and conservation of natural scenic areas of recreational value, cropping and eco- system," Mensah told journalists at a mid-year sector performance press conference.

He said a Memorandum on the Riparian Buffer Zone had been finalized for submission to Cabinet for approval.

Ghana is drained by a large number of streams and rivers. Most of these rivers and water bodies are drying up.

The degradation of vegetative cover at headwaters and along the banks of many river systems and other surface water bodies could be attributed to an increase in human settlements, urbanization, poor agricultural practices and uncontrolled logging and mining activities.

On water service delivery, the minister said government's policy was to review the whole sector with the view to improving service delivery and access to water by the entire urban population.

"The purpose of the review and restructuring exercise is to enhance efficiency of the urban water sub-sector," he said.

Demand for water has outstripped supply over the years as a result of the low investment in water infrastructure and uncontrolled human settlement.

For example, the government in 1965 started the Kpong Water System, about 74 km north east of the capital, to serve part of the population of Accra City and Tema Township, which was about 500,000.

The system never had any major rehabilitation or expansion until 1994 when the intake pumps were changed. Till date, the same system is being used to serve a greater number of people in the eastern parts of Accra, a typical example of what pertains in all the other water systems across the nation.

However, governments over the years have initiated a number of projects to further improve the delivery of safe and affordable water, including the Kpong Water Expansion Project being undertaken with a loan from the China EXIM Bank.

"The Kpong Water Supply Expansion Project is being carried out at an estimated cost of $273 million with funding from the Government of Ghana and the China Exim Bank. The project is envisaged to increase water supply to Accra-Tema Metropolitan Area (ATMA) by 40 million gallons per day," Mensah noted.

The project, which is expected to end by 2014, is 30 percent complete, according to the minister.

Due to the Ghanaian government's commitment to water body protection, it has ratified all protocols on water body protection in the West African sub-region.

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