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Opinions of Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Yieeeee! River Densu too is dead?

The River Densu, which rises in the Atewa Forest of the Eastern Region and drains the lands of that area for nearly 100 miles before reaching its confluence with the Volta and running into the Atlantic Ocean, is dead.

So ran this unbelievable story I read on the Internet on 12 February 2016, credited to the Ghana News Agency:

QUOTE: “Densu River Is Dead!

“The River is suspected to have dried up due to farming [and galamsey] activities by the residents along [its] banks. [These practices] had caused sand... to be washed into the river, causing the water level in the dam [built on on it to provide drinking water] to drop.

“The [people of Nsawam] Municipality, [who] have not seen a single flow of water through their taps for the past two weeks as a result of the drying-up of the Densu River....[They have to] continue to use polluted water from other sources....

Addressing the media, [the] Deputy Minister in Charge of Water, Mr Samuel Adusei, said the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) was [undertaking] a geophysical survey to see if wells could be drilled to aid the crisis. Meanwhile the GWCL would be providing water to essential service providers like hospitals and schools. Mr Adusei said that water tankers will be provided for the residents for the time [being.] UNQUOTE

I was amazed to hear that it is proposed to make a geophysical survey and that it's to be done by the Ghana Water Company Limited. Why? Because if the Company were to Google “Densu River” -- to say nothing of looking into the files it has inherited from the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation! -- it would be overwhelmed with the reports it would unearth, already written by environmentalists and other scientists, on the chemical and other attributes of the river as it exists today.! If there is anything not known about the river up till now, then it shall never be known! What is needed is ACTION! Urgent, drastic action to save it – if it is not too late to save it.

Another astounding thing is that the Ghana Water Company Limited has actually constructed a new water treatment plant on the river, which is ready to be put into operation. Meanwhile, the water body that is supposed to provide the water that is to be treated and piped into homes, has dried up! Does that make sense? Isn't that what is called putting the cart before the horse? Shouldn't you make sure you have enough water, before you construct a plant to treat it?

Listen to this other report, which puts the matter into an even more bizarre perspective: Quote:

“GWCL to dredge Densu River

“Over the past few weeks, the residents of Nsawam Adoagyiri have been experiencing acute water shortage, due to the drying up of the water treatment plant reservoir. The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) is taking steps to dredge the bed of the Densu River to increase the volume and to check the low flows associated with the dry season. Mr Samuel Yaw Adusei, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, who made the announcement in Accra, said the siltation of the Densu as a result of upstream activities, coupled with low flows associated with the dry season, is posing a serious challenge...

“ The Deputy Minister assured the House [of Parliament] that the construction of the major components of the project - water treatment plant, transmission and distribution pipelines - had all been completed. He said there had been a test run of the Water Treatment Plant, and all the treatment facilities are performing satisfactorily, adding that but for the siltation of the Densu River, the facility would be operational.

“Mr Adusei informed the House that the second phase of the project would begin when funds are available”.UNQUOTE

Can we hazard a guess as to why the treatment plant and other ancillary works have been completed, and yet what needs to be done on the water body itself is awaiting financing?

Our guess could well lead us to the conclusion that the equipment for the treatment plant needed to be imported from abroad, and that it was probably procured through a foreign loan. But the local financing component has been dogged by our lunatic budgetary system.

Remember that that was precisely what happened a few miles down the road from Nsawam? I am talking about the all-important Suhum-Apedwa road, which had been under construction for some ten years or so and could not be completed because the local counterpart funds financing needed to allow the work to go ahead smoothly, could not be raised – for mysterious reasons only known to the Government of Ghana and its budgetary system!

Ghanaian journalists have done their part in clearly raising the red flag to warn Ghanaians that we are relentlessly sleepwalking into a disaster that could cause our nation to perish before a century comes round, if we continue to sit down and wait until global warming brings us to our senses. As long ago as 7 October 2008, I myself blew the alarm in an article entitled A JOURNEY TO MY ROOTS that was published on the Internet website, www.modernghana.com

I wrote: QUOTE: “Environmental renewal ought to become a major plank of our development. The trees around such rivers [in the Eastern Region] as Birem, Densu and Supong, that kept the rivers alive and cool, have mostly been cut down recklessly -- usually by those enemies of communities known as 'chain-saw operators', and these rivers are drying up, if they haven't dried up already. At Asiakwa, for instance, the Twafuour stream, which in my childhood, could be swum in, has completely dried up. And the only other river, Supong, which could swell up so much during the rainy season that kids were warned off certain ebun or deep sections of it which, if the kids fooled around there, could get them drowned, is also on its last legs. Supong has become a mere trickle of water! It is a taboo statement -- but there it is.

“Densu too” [I continued, in 2008!] has become choked with weeds and algae and is no longer the force it once was. Densu? Oh my God -- ewiase asei! (the world has BEEN DESPOILED!) Densu used to be so regal that even when you were in a vehicle crossing the Densu bridge at Nsawam Adoagyiri and you looked down into the water, you felt fear. Today, Densu has gone to the dogs. Yet, there are methods known to man for reviving such dying rivers. Why are we doing nothing to save it? UNQUOTE

Those words were written almost eight years ago! When you consider that the Akosombo Dam was completed in half that time, you will realise what dolts we have allowed ourselves to become. Men like ourselves dreamt up Akosombo and built it, but rulers who come from the same stock as them – indeed, some of whom are direct descendants of many of them – have sat down and watched a great river like Densu dry up to an extent that today, we have to look for money to provide tankers to supply water to Nsawam and Adoagyiri with water. Wouldn't Kwame Nkrumah, K A Gbedema, E K Bensah and the other Ministers who were in charge of our early development projects and engineering works, whip us on our bare backs if they be could be resurrected and shown what we have NOT been doing?

Densu must be rescued; it has become a great national asset, with many songs composed in praise of it. One of the most romantic of these imagines a young maiden standing on the river's banks unable to cross, because the river has overflowed its banks, and it would be a risk to her life if she were to step inside to try to cross the river. She calls on her lover to show his love by hurrying over to come rescue her from drowning. She sings:

Densu eei! Densu eei!

The great river

Has flooded and wants to take me away!

Oh my Love

Come oh come

My Love!

Where are you?

Aren't you coming to save me

From Densu

The Great River?

The people of Adoagyiri and Nsawam need to be rescued, not from a River Densu that has overflowed its banks, but a dry, polluted trickle of water that can kill man and beast. Can our Government rise to the occasion and save them?

The Government has largely closed its eyes to galamsey – despite all that the journalists have said. Now, we are reaping the whirlwind of inaction!

But Densu does have a strong spirit. It is Densu that supplies Accra with water. Through the Weija Sam and Water Works.

Surely, the NDC Government cannot threaten Accra with a shortage of water?

Can't it?

Do you want to bet?

We live to see!