Tackling the global water crisis, a core focus of the World Water Day
Accra, March. 22, GNA – March 22, of every year has been designated as World Water Day (WWD) by the United Nations (UN).
It is the annual environmental celebration which focuses its attention on the importance of freshwater and the need to advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
In commemorating the day, awareness of the 2.2 billion people across the world living without access to safe water is raised.
World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of the WWD is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
The theme for this year WWD celebration is, ‘Valuing Water’. According to the UN, the value of water is about much more than its price as it has enormous and complex value for households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.
Does Ghana Value Its Water?
On a day such as this, it is important to have a sober reflection of how far Ghana has come as a country, in achieving goal six of the SDGs with a few questions resonating at the back of our minds.
It is also important to ask about values placed on water systems and sources, Proper managing of water sources.
Ghana has no problem with water sources, but potable water sources are diminishing at a fast rate and according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the country faces a looming water crisis by 2030 if conditions continue to persist.
Threats to our water sources
When water sources are threatened, the issue of water insecurity is raised. Water security ranks as one of the world’s biggest problems and countries in sub-Saharan Africa are among the most vulnerable.
A survey by United Nations International Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that about 490 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to safe water supply, mostly in cities.
In Ghana, for example, over 6 million people (20 per cent of the total population) lack access to safe water supply.
It is unfortunate that Ghana’s water sources are continually decreasing in quality and quantity due to several threats including; illegal mining, destruction of headwaters encroachment, destruction of vegetation along river banks, pollution from activities such as agricultural waste, urban growth, landscape changes, climate change and the list is unending.
The most prominent of all these threats over time has been the destruction of forests that house and protect headwaters and are sources of both major and minor rivers in Ghana that together provide water for millions of Ghanaians and livelihoods for many more.
On a day such as this, A Rocha Ghana in a statement signed by its Deputy National Coordinator, Mr Daryl Bosu shared five (5) Valuing Water Principles as outlined by the United Nations (UN) High Level Panel on Water (HLPW).
Each principle requiring action towards achieving much needed inclusivity in the planning and management of our water resources both in production and distribution along the water and sanitation value chain.
These five valuing principles are to: Recognize and embrace water’s multiple values – to different groups and interests in all decisions affecting water.
People need to recognize and understand that a body of water means different things to different people. Hence, they value that body of water differently. Any change, however big or small to a body of water, will affect the values of any and all the people who have an interest in the water body.
Reconcile values and build trust – to conduct all processes to reconcile values in ways that are equitable, transparent and inclusive;
The different values placed on water can be linked to the different need or purpose and people value safe water for drinking.
Farmers, value safe water for growing food and others need water for livelihoods, while others use it for spiritual reasons.
It is important to find ways to share the benefits of water within communities and societies in equitable, transparent and inclusive ways for actions.
Protect the sources – including watersheds, rivers, aquifers, associated ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and used water flows for current and future generations.
Responsibilities of all
As protectors of many of Ghana’s most critical water sources, forests must be entirely secured from any further damage. Galamsey in Ghana’s rivers must also be stopped as a matter of absolute urgency. Trees along riverbanks much be replanted.
Farmers can also play their part by using organic farming methods and minimising their dependence on chemicals to reduce pollution of rivers, aquifers and groundwater, while manufacturing companies should ensure safe disposal of all chemicals to stop them infiltrating our water resources. These are just some of the ways we can protect our water sources.
Educate to empower – promote education and awareness among all stakeholders about the intrinsic value of water and its essential role in all aspects of life.
Teaching children about the importance of water to life and the different ways to protect or damage people’s access to safe water will help them make responsible water-wise decisions in the future that consider the needs of others as well as their own.
People, especially those who damage or overexploit water resources, know about the importance of water to life and how their actions affect others, and educate them on how they can eliminate the damage and instead benefit their local societies.
Invest and innovate – to ensure adequate investment in institutions like the Water Resources Commission Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the many benefits derived from water and reduce risks.
Ghana needs to develop new ideas and innovative solutions for equitable water management and use, and these should also draw on and integrate communities’ traditional water management strategies.
“In talking about traditional water management systems, we laud the efforts and commitment of the Asantehene to work with everyone to secure rivers and water bodies in the Ashanti Region. New infrastructure is also important to link communities to safe water sources, but this can never be sustained unless the headwaters and water sources are first secured and two must go hand-in-hand.
« We all have a role to play in securing safe water for all. We must use clean water wisely and carefully and not wastefully, remembering that so many amongst us do not have access to safe water. When we use water carefully, it means there is more to go round so that more people can use it too ».