Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Debate Over Celebrating World Water Day

There is no doubt that Ghana has made significant progress in the provision of water to both urban and rural communities. Available data shows that the country has attained more than 80 percent coverage in ensuring access to safe water, and therefore met the water targets of the now ended Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), on reducing by half the proportion of people who lacked access to safe water by 2015. In spite of this laudable attainment, a significant proportion of the population still depends on unsafe water sources. On almost daily basis, there are reports in the media about how residents in some communities have to make do with water from filthy murky ponds, while in other places, people have to share the water source with cattle and other animals. The periodic outbreaks of cholera and diarrhea, which are all water related, attest to the endemic water problem in those parts of the country. Perhaps, it is on this basis that some people, including seasoned journalists have argued that there is no basis to celebrate World Water Day. On the surface, this argument sounds plausible but upon deeper and sober reflection, these bothersome water related issues also provide the basis for Ghanaians and the world at large to celebrate water.

In 1992, the United Nations designated March 22, as World Water Day, to draw global attention to the importance of water as a vital resource to life. The celebration is also used to remind people everywhere that scarcity and misuse of fresh water, pose a serious and growing threat to sustainable livelihoods and development. Furthermore, the celebration is an opportunity to learn more about water related challenges and be inspired to take action to make a difference. The international celebration of this year’s World Water Day focused on “Water and Jobs. The national theme for Ghana was, “Improved Safe Water Access for Sustainable Livelihoods.” Both themes highlighted the two-way relationship between water and decent work agenda in the quest for sustainable development. The celebration made water the subject of media reportage and debates throughout the country. The media engagement brought to the fore, the issue of how water scarcity and shortages in supply are undermining job sustainability, livelihood opportunities and socio-economic development in some parts of the country.

One can therefore argue that water needs to be celebrated because it is about life. It is estimated that one point five billion people including farmers have their jobs dependent on the availability of freshwater. In his statement to commemorate the Day, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon expressed concern about the fact that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty. He was convinced that “the basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce.” The Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah pensively re-echoed the Secretary General’s conviction that the quantity and quality of water can change the lives and livelihoods of workers and even transform societies and economies. He said the theme for the celebration, is a clarion call for everybody to reflect on the state of the country's waters, and how best to implement and achieve the water and sanitation Sustainable Development Goals, to transform the lives of citizens. If for nothing at all, the celebration has helped to position water high on the country’s political agenda. Some would dismiss this as a mere rhetoric. But if one considers that administrative and political heads are equally worried about the water crisis which some Ghanaians face, then one can conclude that celebrating water is the best thing to do.

BY: AMA KUDOM-AGYEMANG, AN ENVIRONMENT AND SCIENCE JOURNALIST.

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