The allocation for the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) increased by more than 55 per cent from GH¢361 million in 2020 to GH¢561 million this year, the 2021 Budget statement and economic policy has said.
This quantum leap is a demonstration of government's commitment to provide access to safe water for the citizenry and to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6), in ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.
The caretaker Minister of Finance, who is also the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of Government Business, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, announced that government would expand the Nationwide Water Quality Monitoring network from the existing 41 stations to 80.
Through the Water Resources Commission (WRC), the water quality parameters will also be increased to cover trace metals (such as arsenic, mercury, lead, copper, and zinc) and other toxins and sediments.
“The Commission will undertake groundwater monitoring and management to ensure the sustainable management and utilisation of ground water resources.
“It will implement governance, ecosystem restoration, and conservation interventions to reverse trends in ecosystem and water degradation and improve livelihoods in the Volta Basin,” he said when he presented the budget statement.
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Among the key initiatives for the MSWR include: Continue the construction of the Upper East, Yendi, Tamale and Damongo Water Supply Projects, 622-hand pump-fitted wells, 32 mechanised water schemes, and the Rural Communities and Small Towns Water Supply Project (RCSTWSP): Complete the implementation of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project, Kpong Phase 2, Ho and Hohoe, Sekondi-Takoradi, Sunyani, Essiama, Keta, Techiman and Wenchi.
In times past, a quarter of the amount was spent in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Some stakeholders in the WASH sector have said that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a blessing in disguise to have put the sector on top of the priority expenditure list.
They said that previously, the sector faced challenges with funds, although the creation of a MSWR was a good start.
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Urban water management
Under the urban water supply programme, the Upper East Region water supply, which when completed, will improve the reliability and sustainability of water supply to Navrongo, Bolgatanga, Paga, Bongo and its surrounding communities, is ongoing at about 65 per cent complete.
The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) project has improved access to potable water to over 420,000 people (equivalent to 85,000 households) against a target of 250,000 people living in the GAMA.
It also made significant achievement in the following; 282km of distribution and service pipelines laid against a target of 150 km; 6,955 new service connections to households against a target of 3,500; and a Low-Income Consumer Support Unit (LICSU) established to promote and sustain water supply delivery to the urban poor.
Government secured additional funding to replicate the project in the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area (GKMA) in 2021.
Rural water management
According to the budget, the Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project constructed 23 water systems in 164 communities within 11 regions namely; Upper West, Upper East, Northern, Savannah, North East, Central, Western, Western North, Bono, Ahafo and Bono East regions.
In addition, 250 boreholes were constructed in the Upper West Region and the total population served by the project is approximately 325,000.
Solid waste management
As part of the President’s vision to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa, the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Environmental Sanitation was inaugurated on January 21, 2020 to assess the current solid waste management situation and propose solutions.
In this regard, government launched a Street Litter Bin programme to deploy 20,000 litter bins over a period of five years to control public littering across the country. In 2020, 8,100 litter bins were deployed.
Also, Cabinet gave approval to decommission and re-engineer the Kpone (Greater Accra) and Oti (Ashanti) Landfill sites and engaged the services of more sanitation guards to enforce sanitation by-laws within the various metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).
Again, through the Greater Accra Sustainable Sanitation and Livelihoods Improvement Project (GASSLIP), government provided domestic and municipal level sanitation infrastructure, and supported skills development and livelihood improvements to enhance the capacity of sanitation service providers of beneficiary assemblies within the GAMA.
To this end, 30 communal waste skip containers and 24 waste collection equipment (Borla Taxis) were delivered to beneficiary MMDAs.
In 2021, government will distribute 3,000 litter bins to further advance the Street Litter Bin campaign throughout the country.
Sanitation and hygiene challenge
The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
According to the United Nations (UN), COVID-19 is the worst health crisis in its 75 years of existence; it is killing people and it is a human, economic and social crisis.
The World Bank estimates that globally 2.4 billion people live without access to improved sanitation.
Data by the UNICEF shows that worldwide, 2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water, three billion people do not have access to handwashing facilities with soap and still, 673 million people practise open defecation.
Experts say the sector also presents many opportunities which require all stakeholders to work together and not leave all for the government alone.