Friday, 24 March 2017

Wastewater use for sustainable living and survival

Since 1993, March 22 has been observed as World Water Day. The day was first officially added to the schedule 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. This year's event focused on, “Wastewater.” Basically, wastewater is water that has been used in homes and businesses in ways that negatively impact its quality with high concentration of pollutants such as human waste, oils, grease, and other harmful chemicals. Water in general is a human rights issue.

In 2010, the UN declared water as a basic human right and this makes it critical to sustainable living and survival for all. With reference to wastewater, the third target of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 states that “by 2030, there should be improved water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.” The Ghana Water Company Limited has been quoted in some reports which indicate that less than 10 percent of wastewater in the country is treated and as such there is the need for measures to prioritise recycling of wastewater to enhance socio-economic development.

This deserves immediate attention since the total amount of grey and black wastewater produced in urban Ghana is approximately 280 million cubic meters as reported in a national draft policy dubbed: “Wastewater use for Agriculture in Ghana”.

In July 2016, the Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in a report on the “Assessment of Waste Water Treatment Plants in Ghana” stated that “Ghana has a very low coverage for wastewater and faecal sludge treatment which is mostly sewerage systems. The national average for sewerage is as low as four point five percent." In spite of its prevalence in the urban areas, there are two Municipal and three Metropolitan Assemblies that have wastewater and faecal sludge treatment plants in Ghana. They are Ho and Ashaiman Municipal Assemblies, as well as Tamale, Accra and Kumasi Metropolitan Assemblies. This is out of the 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in Ghana.

Lack of measures to treat wastewater results in the pollution of water bodies. The responsibility of human settlement management is stated clearly in the Local Government Act, 1993 (462) under the Functions of District Assemblies. A District Assembly is responsible for the development, improvement and management of human settlements and the environment. One therefore expects the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the MMDAs to partner with all relevant agencies to ensure that wastewater is treated for sustainable living and survival.

In recent times, water is becoming a scarce resource as a consequence of increasing population, illegal logging and mining and poor agricultural practices. A famous resource economist, Erich Walter Zimmerman once stated: “resources are not, they become.” This emphasises the identification of wastewater as a resource that must be recycled and reused for sustainable living and survival for all.

For as the famous Nigerian Afro beat musician, Fela Kuti sang: “water no get enemy.”

By Alex Blege, a Freelance Journalist.

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