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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Columnist: Charles Benoni Okine

Protecting our water bodies - Who cares?

Protecting our water bodies — Who cares? Water, they say, is life. This is a common saying but never taken seriously because we are fortunate today to access that valuable resource everywhere in the country.

In December last year, I was in Sandton, South Africa, with a few colleagues from other parts of the continent at the invitation of Barclays Africa Group.

I safely arrived at my plush five-star hotel after a long flight from Accra to Johannesburg. Minutes after my key was handed to me, a lady at the counter said: “Sir, you will have to kindly bear with us.

The taps have not been running for days but the problem will be fixed by tomorrow.” One can imagine the grim on my face.

Later at dinner, a gentleman who overhead some of my friends and I complaining bitterly about the situation said: “Gentlemen, I don’t see this to be a problem.

Come to Cape Town and you will understand the gravity of no water.”

Reading later, I got to know that in beautiful Cape Town, there is no water.

This may sound strange to many but it is a fact. Water is one of the scarcest resources in that side of South Africa.

Climate change has had a telling effect on the citizens living there to an extent that the last option now is to rely on the sea at a huge cost for potable water.

Water rationing in Ghana

The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) announced a couple of weeks ago that it had begun rationing water in most parts of the country as a result of the dry season, environmental degradation and pollution of water bodies by illegal miners.

Those activities, the company said, had derailed its efforts at extracting enough water for treatment, accounting for the inadequate supply of water to consumers.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Head of Communications at the GWCL, Mr Stanley Martey, said with the exception of the Eastern and Ashanti regions, all other regions had been affected by the rationing, with the Western Region being the worst affected.

“We are only able to utilise about 40 per cent of the capacity of the treatment plant in the Western Region because the water level in the River Pra, one of sources of water supply, is very low,” he observed.

Causes of shortages

It is a fact that climate change is having a telling effect on our water bodies. The dry seasons have become far more than the wet periods and, therefore, it is a natural occurrence to have the water bodies drying up.

In spite of this, it is also a fact that governments have stopped investing funds to dredge the water bodies.

It is a common phenomenon that when water bodies are dredged frequently, more water stays in because siltation is prevented.

Another major cause of the water bodies either drying up or getting permanently polluted is the known canker of ‘galamsey’.

It has become so evident that there are some political party financiers who have vowed to indulge in that illegal activity because they are classified as ‘untouchables’.

The evidence of their criminal act is on the wall, yet we are all sitting aloof for a few to mess our future survival.

It is a fact that many people, who describe themselves as squatters, have taken over the banks of water bodies.

They use the water bodies as their waste dump, toilet and bathing area.

A typical example is the Odaw river where the population of the squatters along the entire stretch keeps growing by the day.

Year after year, governments continue to sink millions of Ghana cedis into projects just to dredge the river.

It is unfortunate that nobody in government deems it wise to think that the huge sums of money could be channelled into something more productive for these people rather than spending it on dredging.

It beats me why people in authority allow such simple common sense to elude them. One wonders: if the money used belonged to them, would they spend it without thinking twice?


The consequences of our actions and inaction, as far as protecting these vital human resources are concerned, seem far from us because those in authority feel old and, therefore, assume that they may die soon.

However, we should be alert to know that even if they pass away, their children and the generation after them will bear the full brunt of their misdeeds.

Already, we have not been able to attain universal water coverage in the country.

Instead of working to achieve that, we are rather creating a complete mess with the little we have.

Have we thought about the impact of no water on our economy which is already struggling and not finding its feet?

We cannot continue to live in a country where we think more about political gains today at the expense of what is best to enable us to survive tomorrow.

All these negative things being done to our water bodies are caused by humans and it is time for those who are at the helm of affairs now to live up to their responsibilities in the greater interest of the survival of humankind.

The alarm bells are ringing loudly in my ears and the wise must hear. Mike Huckabee said:

“The most important thing about global warming is this. Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it's all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it.