Feature Article of Sunday, 24 June 2007
Columnist: Mohammed, Sulemana
Peri-urban areas refer to communities at the outskirts of cities which are normally beleaguered with development problems such as inadequate water supply. The peri-urban areas in Accra such as Adenta, Madina and Sabo zongo are currently experiencing these problems. Can Ghana achieve the Millennium Development Goal 7 which seeks to “Half, by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable assess to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”? In order to achieve this goal, Ghana needs to come out with pragmatic solutions to the current water supply situation in the peri-urban areas. A question one is always destined to ask him/herself is, what are the causes of these problems and what can be done to solve it? In answering this question, this literature review will extensively look at the underlying causes of these problems and what can be done to improve on the situation.
Lack of funds by the government to provide water facilities for the peri-urban communities is the main reason behind the inadequate peri-urban water supply in Accra. The main water supplier, Ghana Water Company Limited, is lacking the necessary funds needed to ensure sustainable water supply in the peri-urban communities, the issue of water crisis has become a phenomenon they have to live with.
In coming to the aid of these communities through the provision of water supply, NGOs usually require effective community participation, something which is missing. According to Arapto and Adisenu (October 2006), ineffective community participation is as a result of the people’s mentality that it is the responsibility of government to provide water for them and the reading of politics into development projects. The people think that the services the NGO’s are offering are been offered by the government and under no circumstances should they offer free services to the government. Besides, when somebody at an opposing political divide is leading a project, others on the other side of the political divide fails to participate for fear that their opponent might score cheap political points.
Arapto and Adiseni(October 2006) asserts that the unavailability of public land for sitting of water facilities is another challenge facing development partners ready to help solve the problem. People are usually not ready to donate their land for the sitting of such facilities and such piece of land ought to be well negotiated for as the issue of litigation is very high. Nsiah-Gyabaah in his research article entitled “The Looming National Dilemma of Water Crisis in Peri-Urban Areas in Ghana” points out that misuse of water and wastage through pipe burst, and pollution through agriculture and domestic waste disposal systems were among the causes of peri-urban water supply problems. Nsiah-Gyabaah also asserts that rapid population growth and urbanization were among the causes of the peri-urban water supply situation. He reasons that the rapid increase in population and urbanization, particularly the conversion of watersheds into residential facilities and farmlands is leading to depletion of water resources.
In order to solve the perennial peri-urban inadequate water supply, we need to consider a number of policies and suggestions by various researchers, workshop participants and consultants. At a workshop on the operation and maintenance of rural and urban water supply and sanitation systems held in Harare in 1993, it was recommended that central governments should review its budgetary policies with the allocation of sufficient financial resources to water supply sanitation sector. This will empower the main water supplier (Ghana Water Company Ltd.) to provide sustainable water supply to the peri-urban areas. Nsiah-Gyabaah asserts that we need to have a clear Water Policy in the country to provide water for those whose livelihoods depend on it.
Many researchers including Aratuo and Adiseni (October 2006) agree that the adoption of community participation will go a long way to improve the operation and maintenance as well as the sustainability of a water supply project. I think it is however critical to some education to erase people’s perception that it is the governments’ responsibility to provide them with drinkable water and also enlighten them to stop reading politics into development projects.
In their research paper entitled “Rainwater harvesting in the peri-urban areas of Accra: status and prospects”, Akerberg and lundgren (2006), suggest that rain water harvesting is one of the ways to guard against the inadequate water supply. Peri-urban communities should therefore be introduced to ideas and technologies that will enable them to harvest rain water of good quality for human consumption.
At a workshop organized by the Water Utility Partnership for Capacity Building –Africa in June 2000 in Nairobi Kenya, it was agreed that a vibrant water supply market with a range of service providers who meet the demand of the urban poor should be encouraged. This could be done through the creation of partnerships between the alternative water suppliers and the main water supplier. Through this partnership, the capacity of alternative water suppliers could be built and personnel trained to deliver quality water using sound commercial principles. It was therefore suggested that a conducive legislative and regulatory environment should be created to enable the main water supplier to work through and with alternative service providers. A study conducted in February 2004 on the feasibility of public private partnership (PPP) for sustainable water supply to the urban poor reveals that PPP is a potential feasible option for sustainable water supply to the urban poor. The urban poor express their willingness to pay for sustainable supply but feared that they could be exploited by private water suppliers. In order to forestall this, there is the need to design sound commercial principles under which all private water suppliers must operate.
I think it is also important to embark on a campaign to educate people to stop wasting water. Communities should be encouraged to report pipe burst to the water supply authorities so that they could be repaired on time. The above reviews are some of the literature that has been written on the water supply situation in peri-urban areas. Some of the researchers suggest that the Ghana Water Company can partner, build the capacity and support alternative water suppliers to provide sustainable good drinking water to the peri-urban communities. But rhetorical questions often asked are that; Is Ghana Water Company ready to do this?
Are there people ready to supply water to the peri-urban communities under the auspices of the Ghana Water Company?
These questions therefore call for a research into finding answers to the above questions. Positive answers to these questions could mean creating the platform for the two parties to meet to establish a relationship that could potentially lead to the provision of sustainable water supply to the peri-urban communities.