Feature Article of Wednesday, 8 October 2003
A GNA Feature by Mrs Emily Nyarko
Accra, Oct. 6, GNA - The World Habitat Day is with us once again to remind governments and the governed that the right to adequate housing as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human rights should not become a mere slogan.
That declaration, which, recognized access to safe and healthy shelter and basic services, is essential to a person's physical, psychological, social and economic well-being and should be a fundamental part of urgent actions.
Herein lies the significance of the Day that in some countries and areas the fight should continue to ensure that no human being makes the earth his bed and the sky his or her roof. "This suggests that in that declaration a deeper content that even Western countries are wary of, a declaration that would enable individuals to sue a government for not providing housing."
Thus the UN declaration should not be a mere slogan but a concrete one that should translate into sustainable development and environmental protection with full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
These goals are laudable and their achievement onerous. Governments, especially those in the developing economies are grappling with the problems and some have embarked on serious housing schemes.
Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals have taken on the challenge to give not only adequate shelter to the human race but also to ensure the availability potable water and good sanitation.
It is, therefore, in the right direction that the theme chosen for this year's celebration is: "Water Supply And Sanitation In Cities". Water, it is said is the second necessity to life after air with food and shelter taking the third and fourth places.
Water supply is an important input to every human endeavour while sanitation issues relate to by products of daily human activities. A UN Report in November 1995 said: Substandard housing, unsafe water and poor sanitation in densely populated cities are responsible for 10 million deaths worldwide every year. It has its consequences. Man, from generations has settled along river courses or water bodies by instinct. His activities have impacted negatively on these water bodies and unless proper management practices were adopted the existence of future generations would endangered.
Until recently, the citizenry in the rural areas managed water supply and sanitation issues whereas in the cities local authorities managed such services.
Water supply to urban areas is the country is inadequate. Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) produces 567,000 cubic metres of water daily from 83 operated water systems to supply to 9,147,000 people. However, the present water demand for 2003 is 940,000 cubic metres daily for the estimated population of 20,000,000.
The present urban water supply coverage is about 59 per cent while the level of Unaccounted For Water is 49 per cent.
The issue of inadequacies, funds and education on water supply and sanitation should, therefore, be tackled with zeal and the insight it deserved. Men's survival and the environment depend on water and good sanitation
In the cities, reliable and good water supply is relevant to all human activities for domestic, industrial, commercial and other purposes.
As the urban population grows, so the demand for good water and proper management of sanitation also increases. The absence of these services in the urban centres would lead to enormous socio-economic problems the majority of which relate to diseases. A United Nations report states that about 80 per cent of diseases worldwide are water related.
This implies that proper management of water supply and sanitary issues would drastically reduce the account of diseases worldwide.
Moreover, with the proper observance of sanitation, the water sources would be less polluted and less costly to purify for consumption. This would lead to less expenditure on the importation of drugs.
However, the achievement of this feat requires that both the authorities and the citizenry play their role to ensure sustainable water supply and well managed sanitation.
It, therefore, behoves the citizens to keep their communities clean so that water bodies would be protected from pollution. While the government can factor sanitation and environmental programme into the education curricula, religious groups could assist and play a vital role by spreading the message since they also need a well and fit congregation in their churches, mosques and other worship places.
Local authorities could also increase educational programmes to create awareness on sanitation and ensure that water sources are well managed.
If everybody played a part and observed proper sanitation, water sources would be less polluted for the common good.