Although the Western Region of Ghana is considered to be one of the wettest areas of the country, current figures put it at the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of rural potable water coverage with just 44.20%.
The lowest rural water coverage is largely in part as a result of a perception held over the years that because the region enjoys moderate to high rainfall, especially during the rainy season, which invariably affords it a high water table, access to water is not difficult.
It is also due to the difficult terrain in the region, which makes access to many of the rural communities a nightmare, and which has consistently resulted in low investment in rural water and sanitation.
Stating these at a briefing, when a team of journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN), visited the region to acquaint itself with the extent of water and sanitation coverage there, especially under the European Union (EU) funded Small Town Water and Sanitation Project (EU-STWaSaP), Mr. Abrefa Mensah, Regional Extension Services Specialist, Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), said “In 2005 when the programme started, there was a wrong perception that because there is a lot of rainfall, coverage was very good.”
He intimated further that another factor contributing to the low rural water coverage was “accessibility to communities, which discourages donors, as well as the climatic condition in the region.”
The CWSA Extension Services Specialist said rural potable water supply coverage was as low as 26% in 1996, adding that it was as a result of the implementation of a National Community and Sanitation Programme (NCWSP) in the region, that potable water supply coverage increased to an estimated 44.20% as at the end of December 2009.
Currently, the Upper West Region has the highest rural water coverage, representing 76.34% of the total national coverage of 58.97%, followed by the Ashanti Region with 72.14%, then Volta – 62.63%, Northern – 60.11% and the Greater Accra Region – 59.20%.
The others are: Upper East – 59.19%, Eastern – 58.16, Brong Ahafo – 53.61%, Central – 45.10% and Western with the least coverage of 44.20%.
Meanwhile, the 2008 national coverage for potable water in rural communities and small towns per region were in descending order, Upper West – 76.76%, Ashanti – 72.95%, Greater Accra – 59.03%, Eastern – 58.88%, Northern – 57.97 and Volta – 54.27%.
The rest were, Brong Ahafo – 53.51%, Upper East – 52.24%, Central – 44.35% and Western – 41.27% of the 2008 national coverage of 57.14%.
The CWSA estimates that on successful completion of ongoing projects by the end of the year 2010, which include EU-funded Small Town Water and Sanitation projects, potable water supply coverage would hopefully increase to 56.70% in the Western Region.
Further, the Western Regional office of the CWSA, has since 1995 been facilitating the provision of potable water and safe sanitation in small towns and rural communities and has been able to reach an estimated 70% of the region’s population, according to a status report presented by the agency.
According to the Agency’s Regional Extension Services Specialist, Mr. Mensah, provision of potable water in the Western Region began with a pilot project by the World Bank through an International Development Agency (IDA) fund from 1995 to 2000, under which the CWSA provided hand dug wells, boreholes and six pipe systems.
He disclosed that under that project, 275 hand dug wells and 105 boreholes as well as six pipe systems were provided. “Then within the same period we had EU projects and EU also started in 1997 and was also completed in 2002. But there was an extension of the same project to 2005; so the EU project also provided eight pipe systems in the region, between 1997 and 2005,” he divulged.
According to the Extension Services Specialist, after the pilot project named CWSP 1, the region was starved in respect to investments in the water and sanitation sector, until from 2001 to 2002 when JICA (Japan International Development Corporation) came in briefly and provided 146 boreholes.
In 2001 too there was the rehabilitation of five Ghana Water Company Limited pipe systems, construction of four hand dug wells under a WHO/IDA pilot project from 2003 to 2005, a HIPC water and sanitation project from 2003 to 2005 which provided 158 boreholes, while some NGO support projects from 1995 have provided 45 boreholes and 96 hand dug wells, thus bringing the total number of boreholes provided from 1995 to 1,037, 375 hand dug wells and 19 pipe systems.
Meanwhile, major water supply and sanitation ongoing projects in the region include a EU Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Project for 20 communities in 10 districts, an IDA Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Project for 10 communities in seven districts and Government of Ghana sponsored Rural Water Supply project began in 2009, which involves the construction of 175 boreholes with hand pumps in 16 districts.
There are also ongoing, a Government of Ghana Special Borehole Project began in 2008 and intended to provide 95 boreholes, a community-based rural development project began in 2006 to construct eight boreholes, as well as an NGO support project to provide three boreholes, which was started in 2009.
In all, when the projects are completed, it is expected that 281 boreholes and 30 Small Town Pipe Water Systems would have been provided.
According to the Western Regional CWSA, the major challenges they face is inadequate investment funding for water and sanitation projects in the region, as well as increased and indiscriminate mining activities, which threaten the existing water sources and ground water safety.
They however hope to surmount their challenges by increasing coverage of sustainable potable water supply to 70% by 2015, through the increase of investment funding in the region.
The Western Region Water and Sanitation Agency also hopes to establish effective monitoring of systems management and operation and ensure that all communities with population above 75 people have access to potable water by 2015.
By Edmund Smith-Asante