For 24 years in succession, Ghana and other countries have been making March 22 annually as World Water Day. The day is used to highlight the urgent need for the global community to manage its fresh water resources in a sustainable manner. The event has become critical in the face of climate change impact on water resources, rapidly rising global population and associated issues like over exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources. 2017 focus on “Water and Waste Water,” is a signal to nations like Ghana to change their attitude towards waste water, also known as sewage. Because of its composition, waste water is high in pollutants, the haphazard disposal of which impacts negatively on the environment and human health.
Additionally, improper discharge of waste water is a major contributor to insanitary environment that breed killer but preventable diseases such as diarrhoea. The US based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that more than 800,000 children under five years die from diarrhoea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11 per cent of the seven point-six million deaths of children under the age of five and it means that about 2,200 children die every day as a result of diarrhoeal diseases. There are also the millions of people who are infected with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water and/or hygiene-related. These include Guinea Worm Disease, Buruli Ulcer and Trachoma, which is a form of blindness that is preventable, and bilharzia or snail fever. All of these are worm related diseases often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices.
From the look of things, improper disposal of waste water should not be encouraged in any human settlement, whether urban, peri-urban or rural. However, the reality is that most waste water produced globally remains untreated causing widespread water pollution. Some UN reports show that 90% of all waste water generated is released into the environment untreated. In many developing countries, the bulk of domestic and industrial waste water is discharged without any treatment or after primary treatment only.
Currently, Ghana lacks adequate waste water treatment systems and majority of households and communities do not have basic sanitary facilities. The good news is that this problematic waste need not be a burden, because it can actually become a source of livelihood enhancement, job creation and income generating avenue. To emphasize the importance of waste water as a resource, the UN commemorated this 2017 World Water Day with the release of a report instead of the usual statement by the UN Secretary General. The report titled “World Water Development Report 2017 – Wastewater: An untapped resource argues that wastewater, discarded into the environment every day, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater. It can also serve as raw materials for energy and agriculture.
Fortunately, there are available simple and inexpensive technologies for treating waste water and tapping its precious resources. The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies that have oversight responsibility for managing the nation’s waste water should begin to dialogue with relevant institutions and organisations such as the Water Research Institute and the International Water Management Institute to tap the potential of waste water.
As a country, let us give priority to the management and recycling of waste water for the general good of the present and future generation.
BY: AMA KUDOM-AGYEMANG, AN ENVIRONMENT AND SCIENCE JOURNALIST.