Today, March 22, is World Water Day. This international observance day is designated on March 22, 1993, by the United Nations General Assembly to create awareness on the importance of universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries. Besides this, World Water Day enhances the importance of our fresh water bodies around the globe and the need for sustainable management of freshwater resources. Every year, the UN and other stakeholders focus on specific water crisis related issues to create more awareness and capacity. The current global water crisis has major challenges, for example water scarcity, pollution, unequal water distribution and the lack of sanitation.
The theme of this year’s World Water Day is dubbed ‘Why waste water?’, pointing at reducing and reusing waste water. The theme of this year is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 6, of which one target is to halve the proportion of untreated waste water and to increase the recycling and safe reuse of water. Water is the basic need for every living organism, being human, animal or plant. Without water there is no life. In many countries, recycling facilities for waste water are not there. Sewage end up in rivers, lakes and seas, polluting the already scarce water sources in the water bodies. This is currently threatening 1.8 billion of people. These people use water containing particles of faeces, causing high risks of being infected with cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Please also check the website of UN’s World Water Day via this link: http://www.worldwaterday.org/.
During my time in Ghana, I see a lot of water related issues which can easily, but with some effort and investments, be solved. One day, I had a conversation with an employee from Ghana Water Company Ltd. I asked him where the water is going to when I flush the toilet. He said, the sewage and thus the water end up in streams and rivers. I was impressed. To make a comparison. In my home country, The Netherlands, waste water is via an extensive sewage infrastructure network collected at a central point, in all municipalities. Wastewater is then collected in a reservoir where the water will be for some days or let’s say weeks. This water will be treated, filtered and so on and then again added to the water supply infrastructure. You even can drink this water! This water cycle starts over and over and because of recycling no water is spoilt. However, this reservoirs and treatment infrastructures need investments and awareness about the possibilities should be raised among the government bodies and people of Ghana. When there is a will, there is a way!
The Development Institute works extensively with communities to conserve the scarce freshwater bodies. One of the projects DI worked on, together with its partners Both ENDS, Water Resources Commission and Acacia Water, is ADAPTS in the Dayi River Basin in southeast Ghana. In this project, the ADAPTS approach is used to adapt local communities to climate change by building on the needs, priorities and actions of local people and their communities. Rural communities are highly dependent on the local fresh water bodies and local water management is thus very essential. Climate change, population growth and non sustainable use put constraints on the scarce water resources. In this project, DI supported local farmers in sustainable small-scale irrigated agriculture to cope with rainfall variability.
Furthermore, The DI is working together with project communities and the Wildlife Division in the Keta Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site to ensure sustainable management of the lagoon wetlands. About 10.000 mangrove seedlings have been planted in 2016 as part of efforts towards sustainable wetland management. Other projects of The DI included planting trees along major water courses in the Weto Range to conserve the watershed and buffer zones of perennial rivers near project communities in the mountainous zones of the Volta Region. Tree planting along rivers and streams are to help avoid river bank erosion and the chances of flooding in the river catchment area. Besides this, forested stream banks function as a sponge, keeping the water longer in the soil and enable the water to get filtered out the excessive nutrients, sediments and pollutants.
The DI has also been leading a process to set up a Delta Alliance wing in Ghana to rally all stakeholders around the management of the Volta delta. This is to create a balance between research and practical actions towards sustainable and coordinated management of Ghana’s Volta River delta.