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Opinions of Friday, 8 December 2006

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede

Water, electricity in Ghana: available or not?

As the population of Ghana increases and the living standard improves, one of the biggest risks in this new century is that Governments will be overwhelmed by the challenges that are now emerging. Research in the developed world shows that Ghana will begin to see some of its effects. Many African countries are showing signs of demographic fatigue. Another challenge is the struggle to deal with the consequences of fast-multiplying human numbers, many African countries, including Ghana, will struggle to respond to new threats, such as provision of sufficient water and electricity.

Research shows that in the developed world the demand for water and electricity increases with development for agricultural advancement, business or domestic needs.

In his speech on the farmer’s day at Buipe, Central Gonja District, last week, Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, and the Northern Regional Minister, reported that Ghana is capable of becoming self sufficient in food production.

He further pointed out that; this would depend largely on sustainable agricultural investment in the rural farming areas, to engage the youth in food production and controlling the taste of the people for foreign food items.

How can Ghana become self-sufficient if strategies for increasing both water and electricity supplies are not being addressed? Currently, many people do not see a problem. Does Ghana not export electricity to its neighbours? Ghana does not appear to be a desert, and arguably has not all the water of Lake Volta? Ghana must think ahead in 20 years time, when demand for water and electricity will treble at least. Do we have enough?

Baring in mind that, the continuing population growth and its impact on the shrinking of cropland per person means, Ghana would soon find herself trapped if we have significant population growth. This certainly highlights the need to have alternative strategies in place as a short and long-term issue. Many countries that have not been proactive have fallen into this trap. For example, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan: all these countries are seeing environmental degradation due to overuse of basic resources.

Quick thinking countries are beginning to explores other alternatives to meet the demands of climatic changes and to improve both industrial and general standard of living. In current times those who live in Ghana are all too aware of the rationing of water and electricity supplies from time to time. Plentiful usually, but definitely is lacking in some seasons. As demand rises, shortages will grow. This would not attract foreign investors to truly invest 100% in Ghana. Business would be classified as unreliable, economically not viable in the long term.

Current updates

The UN has also released a comprehensive WORLD WATER REPORT in Tokyo recently. This report was a UN system-wide evaluation of global water resources. It is the united efforts made by 23 United Nations agencies, convention secretariats and experts to produce the most comprehensive and up-to-date report on the state of the world's freshwater resources.

The World Water Development Report ‘Water for People, Water for Life’ - is the most comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the state of the resource. In compiling the report, it explained that every UN agency and commission dealing with water has for the first time worked jointly to monitor progress against water-related targets. For example in the fields as health, food, ecosystems, cities, industry, energy, risk management, economic evaluation, resource sharing and finally its governance. The link is below for those who wish to read further. World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP),

Though West Africa and more specifically in Ghana is blessed with water it is not really available 24/7. In dry months there are restrictions and rationing. Also, we must not forget, our electricity comes from the Volta dams; poor rainfall also means a shortage of water to generate electricity. For both water and electricity alternative strategies should be seriously considered.

Water harvesting as the norm for every home

Harvested water could be used in flushing toilets, washing cars; laundry purposes and too waters the gardens of both the well off and the poorer people growing a few vegetables. Good drinking water should be used only for drinking and other essential needs where health is at risk. This would reduce demand for people needing water on tap.

Though underwater storage tanks would be ideal, in Britain even a single water barrel will often provide all the water required for gardening purpose and other outdoor uses. If we took harvesting of rainfall from roofs seriously, we could cut demand substantially. All new housing and business developments should be made to harvest and store rainwater by legislation.

All this needs is a gutter running from the roof with a system connecting rainwater into underground water storage. The cost of this is not extensive and as long as tanks are screened from the air mosquitoes should not be a problem. The costs will often be offset with time by the availability of free water.

Water may be plentiful most of the time now, but the people of Central Asia thought the same about the Aral Sea, which has become mainly desert in 30 years of abstraction of its water.

The rationing of Electricity

Currently electricity is finite in that is it is mainly from the Volta dam. There is a limit to the amount the dams can provide. Extra supplies means importing oil, coal and building more power stations, which is expensive. One freely available resource we have is the sun. It may be expensive to harness it however it is free and good for the environment.

Ghana needs to learn from the foreign partners who are currently forging links with us. We need to home in on their strengths and development; engage them as mentors to our newly found skills and aspirations. A classic example is Israel. They have researched alternative energy sources and have been well written about in an article in: - See google Energy Management and Sustainable Energy Development in Israel, 10 Aug 2002.

The principles Israel use for guiding the Ministry in its activity in the area of energy conservation should be: non-damage to economic growth, non-damage to the level of energy services provided to the energy consumers, and also reduce the damage to the environment. The order of priority should be:

1. Becoming more efficient and preventing waste;

2. Exploitation of residual energy;

3. Production and exploitation of renewable and alternative energies (exploitation of non-fossil sources). For Ghana, the obvious area to look at is solar power.

Solar power installation

Our Government may need to pass a legislation that all new houses built need to consider the inclusion of solar power provision. This could be encouraged by a small tax on new buildings, which is waived if adequate solar power facilities are installed. The tax incentive offsets the considerable cost of solar power, making it more attractive. This is a way to fund solar power at no cost to government. Would it not be wonderful if Ghana became the leading developer of solar power in Africa? It must surely have a future, and those countries who embrace it will get the opportunity to have the industry based in their country.

The below are exactly what Israel used to ensure usage of solar power are as follows:

Energy conservation is achieved by:

1. Legislation and government decisions (e.g., co-generation, implementing recommendations of energy conservation audits, and energy consumption standards for air-conditioners. It would be effective if there is a mandatory implementation of means of conserving energy in government offices);

2. Demonstration of new technologies (e.g., production of bio-gas, co-generation, lighting of office buildings): New areas, which Ghana must explore with Israel or any country engaged in this.

3. Expanding communication activities to the general public as well as education in schools.

Conclusion

These measures would not only increase the supply of water and electricity but also make less demands on the Volta dam. In addition, it would give families a secure supply of water in emergencies (in rural areas, children would not be going out to fetch water ) and Ghana a chance to develop before lack of resources strangle advancement at birth.



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