Feature Article of Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Columnist: Ablorh, Raymond

The ‘Pure water’ phenomenon– a remedy turned malady

Raymond Ablorh

Sometime ago ‘iced water’ sellers combed the markets in Accra under the merciless sun to sell to thirsty perishing souls cups of chilled water.

The health conscious part of our society complained bitterly about this phenomenon because it rendered citizens susceptible to infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Then came, the polythene tied water which later was referred to as ‘panyin de panyin’ with its own inadequacies. Consumers complained bitterly about the unhygienic conditions under which the processors tied the water for sales.

The media hyped the arguments against this phenomenon and its patronage; thereby drastically reducing production in many parts of the country.

Thus, the birth of the sachet water, a beneficiary of the local advertiser’s glittering generality concept called ‘pure water’, about a decade ago, came as a relief to all. But, today, it is clear that what we thought was a blessing has speedily metamorphosed into a curse.

Perhaps, it is because, the producers, industry regulators and government didn’t foresee some of the problems we are encountering today to make adequate preparation to forestall them.

Not only are many of these waters as impure and unsafe as the one Yoomo Adjorkor’s grand daughter sold in the Kaneshie market years ago; the sachet which replaced the cup has also become a severe environmental and sanitation headache to our society.

The number of unlicensed sachet water producers seems to be in a heated competition with that of modern time prophets in Ghana. All the producers need are the name of the so-called pure water, any water, polythene, sealing machine and Ghana Standard Board accreditation mark (to persuade consumers that the product is of an approved standard by GSB).

The producers do not care so much about the contents of their products; the institutions put in place to ensure that wholesome and good quality products are fed society are simply malfunctioning; advertising companies and the media think only of their profits and not the substance they are promoting to consumers; and, the consumers, the victims themselves, careless too.

But, in the case of these so-called pure waters, even if the unhealthy water doesn’t kill us, the sachets will do so sooner.

As if the producers and environment authorities forgot that consumers wouldn’t chew or swallow the sachets after drinking the water, no serious preparation was made to meet the environmental challenges this phenomenon is presenting today.

Our gutters are chocked with pure water sachets thus generously providing plasmodium parasites’ distributors with free self-contained houses to breed and boost the spread of malaria. It’s a pity how we are unthinkably permitting Preventable malaria to turn our hospitals and clinics into grave yards.

Also, during raining seasons, the relationship between sachets -chocked gutters and avoidable floods flourishes at the peril of human lives and properties in the face of hopeless and helpless city authorities. The infections born in these perennial floods kill more people than the tuberculosis bacteria Naa Lameley supposedly retailed with her iced-water cups decades ago.

This sachet borne environmental problem is affecting every facet of our national life, not excluding the fishermen’s business.

Nowadays, amidst their occupational songs and great expectations, the fishermen at James Town optimistically invest the tons of banku and shito they consume into pulling very heavy nets which finally reveal nothing but millions of tons of pure water sachets and few fishes restlessly suffocating in polythene bags.

Oftentimes, the fishing nets arrest polythene bags which have also arrested and suffocated fishes to death. Thus, one does not need to do an in-depth research on the impact of this phenomenon on aquatic life to know the devastating effects it has on the fishes in our seas.

Moreover, a serious issue like sanitation and its relationship with sectors like health and tourism needs to be addressed from problem-solving perspective.

After all, National Health Insurance cannot survive in squalor or a filthy environment; and, few international tourists would be adventurous enough to tour a rubbish dump of a country where they have to hold their noses and eyes tight to avoid inhaling effluvium and enduring horrible sights.

Many a political leader in Ghana instantly blames our sanitation problems on the attitude of the people. What they forget is that it is the responsibility of leadership to direct the attitude of citizens towards the vision of the nation.

If my co-passengers in the Abeka Lapaz trotro throw rubbish into the gutter and I ask them why they did that and they answer me with a question, as is usual in our country, whether where they threw the sachets is my bedroom, what should be my answer? What should I do?

This is why the constitution mandates government to create educational institutions to work on the minds of the citizens as well as enact laws and regulations to control society’s attitude. If governments cannot work on the attitudes of their constituents towards the visions of their nations then they have no business occupying those positions.

Central and local governments should thus stop blaming our negative attitudes and execute a pragmatic sanitation policy, and enact and enforce the necessary laws and orders.

Our authorities need the gut to enforce our laws without fear of being voted out of power. But, first, they need to provide those sanitary facilities which would make it easy for people to obey the laws.

It’s time the producers, industry regulators, environment authorities, central and local governments and all other stakeholders collectively work out a path out of this filth.

Raymond Ablorh

Writers Email: raydelove@yahoo.co.uk