China helps solve Ghana’s water problems

Accra - Ghana

Elizabeth Amponsah turns the pipe on to see whether water will flow but no water gushes out. It had been like that for the past one month. She needed water for her domestic chores. Her Kenkey selling business has grounded to a halt for lack of portable water. Her only alternative is the untreated lagoon water which is polluted by waste products such as human excreta and garbage. Outside and on the streets are women and children of school-going-age carrying yellowish gallons searching for water. Some of these children have been out of school in search of water thus depriving them of the opportunity to be in the classroom. The water situation in Ghana can only be described as grim and if water indeed is life, then more must be done to save the life of the people of Ghana. Statistics from the Ministry of Water Resource, Works and Housing indicates that Ghana Water Company Limited, one of the major water production and distributing outlets in Ghana currently operates eighty-one (81) urban water supply systems throughout the country which together produce about 142 million gallons of water a day. According to Ghana Statistical Services, Ghana’s urban population rate is estimated at about 46%.

While the daily production of portable water in the urban areas is about 142 million gallons per day, the daily demand is about 242 million gallons per day which leaves a daily shortfall of about 100 million gallons per day. The only effective urban water supply coverage currently (2011) is about 58%. The government of Ghana however, hopes to increase this coverage to 75% by 2013 with the various interventions by way of water projects the ministry intends to undertake all over the country. According to a national water supply and sanitation survey conducted in 1993, the supply of potable water only reached about 76 percent of the urban and 46 percent of the rural population. This means that there has been a decline in urban water supply.

In a research titled “Improved Water Supply in the Ghanaian Volta Basin; Who Uses it and Who Participates in Community Decision Making?” conducted by the Environment Production Technology Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute, about 67 percent of households along the Ghanaian Volta Basin have access to improved water, while 43 percent of these continue to use unsafe sources as their main domestic water source. Governments over the years have tried various means to improve the water situation in Ghana. In the past, the Ghana Water and Sewage Cooperation (GWSC) had the mandate to provide an adequate supply of domestic water to the country’s rural and urban population. Recognizing the GWSC’s failure to fulfill this mandate, the Ghanaian government introduced—as part of its general decentralization policy for the public sector—institutional reforms in the domestic water sector, which are currently under implementation. As part of this reform process the urban and rural domestic water sectors were separated.

In 1994, the government established the Community Water and Sanitation Project (CWSP) by launching the National Community Water and Sanitation Program (NCWSP). Initially the CWSP was part of GWSC, but later was turned into an autonomous institution known as the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) responsible for rural drinking water supply and facilitating the implementation of the national community and sanitation strategy (established by Act 564, 1998). Urban water supply remained the responsibility of GWSC, which in July of 1999 was legally converted to a limited liability company – the Ghana Water Company Limited.

And in line with Government’s policy objectives in the domestic water sector, two additional institutions – the Water Resources Commission (WRC) and the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) – have been set up. The PURC is responsible for approving water tariffs and to ensure proper water industry practices. The WRC, on the other hand, is empowered to oversee the sustainable utilization of the country’s water resources and is responsible for water abstraction, pollution control, water quality standards, water rights, and license fees.

As part of President Attah Mills’ government decision to further improve the water situation in Ghana, the NDC government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August 2011 with the Chinese government in the sum of $270 million for the expansion of the Kpong Water Supply project. The loan agreement which was signed by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, during his recent trip to China is one of the major water projects the Ministry is undertaking to boost water supply to parts of Accra-Tema and its environs. The loan was obtained from the China Exim Bank (Exim).The main scope of expansion works of this project is estimated to cost about $273million.

The construction company for the project is Messrs China Gezhouba Group Company Limited of China. The China Gezhouba Group Company Limited primarily engages in the construction of projects on contract basis in China and internationally. It undertakes contracts for the construction of projects, which include power plants, dams, roads, and bridges, as well as offers civil engineering services. The company also involves in the investment and construction of two highways in Hubei province, China; and manufacture of cement and civil explosives, as well as in hydro power generation business. In addition, it engages in property development business, which includes development of residential communities in Yichang, Hubei province. The company is based in Beijing, China.

According to Mr. Michael Agyemang, the Public Relations Manager of the Ghana Water Company Limited, the expansion of the Kpong water supply project will cover the following areas: The construction of a new 40 million gallon treatment plant, construction of new transmission mainly through Dodowa, Adenta to Accra Booster Stations, Distribution Improvement and Reservoir provision and a dedicated electricity supply through arrangements with the electricity Company of Ghana.

According to the Minister for Water Resources Works and Housing, “So far, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been conducted and completed as a condition for the loan. Cabinet and Parliamentary approvals have also been secured and an implementation Team for the project has arrived in Ghana from China for data collection and assessment for design.”

ChinAfrica can confirm that the Messrs China Gezhouba Group Company Limited has started the Kpong project work in earnest. When ChinAfrica visited the Kpong Water Project site, many Ghanaians and Chinese workers are assiduously constructing the 40 million gallon treatment plant. “Work is on schedule and we hope to be ready with the plant construction in the middle of 2014,” said Mr. Chen Jing, the Public Relations Manager of the Messrs China Gezhouba Group Company Limited.

The site engineer of the company Mr. Wubin was happy with the state of work. “We are very satisfied with the state of work so far and hope to finish on schedule,” he said. Residents along the Kpong, Tema-Accra metropolitan areas are looking forward to the end of their water problems when the construction work is completed. “We cannot wait to see the completion of the Kpong Water Treatment Plant,” Said Elizabeth Amponsah, the Kenkey seller at Dodowa near Accra. “We can now have water at home for our domestic use and that will also mean that our children will rest from the hustles of looking for water before going to school.”

© 2012, Francis L Sackitey. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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