THE Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) has urged the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) to jointly develop a comprehensive pro-poor policy targeted at water supply to poor and vulnerable groups.
The coalition said an assessment of the government's COVID-19 free water supply intervention in some communities in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) revealed that a number of low-income communities “did not benefit” from the initiative.
The organisation analysed the implementation of the free water initiative, using a case study of three urban communities; Janman, Gonse and Olebu, all in the Greater Accra Region.
At a news conference in Accra yesterday, the Chairman of CONIWAS, Mr Attah Arhin, said the study revealed that many communities in the study areas sourced water from private vendors "at higher cost" throughout the implementation period, as they were not connected to the supply lines of the GWCL.
The study, he noted, found that in some of the communities, a 20 or 25-litre container of water was sold between 70Gp and 80Gp, even though households with direct GWCL connection paid GH¢5.80 for 1,000 litres of water.
He said the assessment team also found that some of the residents in the study areas paid GH¢28 per 1000L of water from private tanker services, which was about five times the cost of water they were supposed to enjoy free of charge as per the President’s directive.
Mr Arhin was, however, quick to add that the situation could not be generalised as the study was limited to selected communities in the Greater Accra Region and not all the 16 regions.
“Overall, the implementation of this directive in the target communities was below expectation,” he said, and cited lack of clear policy guidelines and limited consultation as major impediments.
Free water initiative
As part of measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the citizenry, the government in April last year rolled out an intervention to absorb water bills for the entire Ghanaian populace.
The free water intervention, which had initially been announced to span a period of three months from April 1 to June 31, 2020, was extended on two separate occasions last year - from July 1 to September 30, and from October 1 to December 31.
In January 2021, the policy was maintained for lifeline consumers defined as persons who consume less than 5m³ (1.100 gallons) of water per month, from January 15 to March 31, this year, and further extended from April 1 to June 30, this year.
According to the GWCL, a total of 1,320 communities (rural and small towns), making up a population of 6,068,604, benefited from the initiative across the 16 regions.
Outlining the key observations of the study, Mr Arhin said as a result of limited and faulty pipelines in the target communities, the flow of water was largely irregular.
“Olebu, for instance, had access to the main lines but limited access to distribution lines and so most parts of the community did not benefit from the free water since they had to buy from private vendors,” he said.
He further noted that: “With GWCL Water Management System in full operation notwithstanding, the three communities still continuously access water from private water vendors at a higher cost.”
The CONIWAS urged the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and its agencies to commission a comprehensive review of the free water intervention and report to stakeholders, targeting the successes, challenges and lessons learnt from the process to inform future interventions.
“The ministry should facilitate, through its WASH emergency platform, a clear mechanism that will enable easy intervention and support from all stakeholders in the event of similar emergencies in the future,” it further recommended.