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Increase investment to water sector - CONIWAS entreats govt

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey

The Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) has expressed concern over the vast inequality gaps in access to safe water supply in the country and entreat the government to increase financial allocation to the water sector to address the problem.

The coalition also recommended that the government should ensure that investments made in the water sector prioritised the needs of the poor and the vulnerable.

SDGs

The Vice Chairman of CONIWAS, Mr Atta Arhin, was speaking in an interaction with journalists in Accra last Thursday
ahead of the commemoration of this year’s World Water Day celebration yesterday.

March 22 has been set aside by the United Nations every year for countries to focus attention on water.

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This year, the celebration was on the theme: “Leaving no one behind.”

Goal six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the UN enjoins countries to ensure the availability and the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all while Goal 10 emphasises the need to reduce inequalities within countries.

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Budgetary allocation

Mr Arhin said in 2016, the government allocated an amount of GH¢305 millions which included emoluments for goods and services and capital expenditure to the sector, while in 2017, the amount decreased to Gh¢183 million.

In 2018, it was Gh¢ 255 million while in the 2019 budget, it was reduced to GH¢246 million.

“CONIWAS has, however, noticed that if there is no deliberate government intention, backed by real action to balance the current inequalities in water supply in Ghana, the poor and the most vulnerable will sadly be left behind,” he added.

The 2017 and 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report by the Ghana Statistical Service reveals that there are vast inequalities between the rich and the poor, between urban and rural communities, administrative regions and between the educated and the uneducated in access to water.

“The rich person in Ghana is 46 per cent more likely to have more access to improved sources of drinking water than the poor. This means that as a country, we have not adequately developed a mechanism to protect the poor and people living in low income communities from using unimproved drinking water sources.

“In Ghana today, if you choose to live in a rural area, you are 25 per cent less likely to have access to improved basic drinking water sources compared to someone living in an urban area, according to the report. It will, therefore, take a deliberate government programme of action to correct these inequalities,” Mr Arhin stated.

Consequences

According to him, such inequalities further entrenched poverty among the poor since they were compelled to spend more time fetching water than their richer counterparts.

“For instance, whereas about 32 per cent of rural dwellers spend more than an hour a day searching for water, people in urban areas are likely to spend less time in search of drinking water. Time spent in search of water can further reduce one's productive hours and thereby continue to trap them in a perpetual cycle of poverty,” he added.

CONIWAS, Mr Arhin said, “is of the view that as a country, we cannot allow background circumstances, income or educational levels to determine who drinks water from improved or contaminated sources.”

Observation

The executive Secretary of CONIWAS, Basilia Nanbigne, also noted that funding of the water sector had been dwindling over the years while only a fraction of the budget allocated to the sector was actually disbursed.

“We have also done some budget tracking and it shows that metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) do not prioritise allocation of funds to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. When they get money from the Common Fund and other sources, they mostly allocate five or seven per cent to WASH while the bulk goes into the water and other sectors. We really need to prioritise funding and investments in WASH,” she stressed.