Ghana is currently grappling with the devastating effects of illegal mining activities with water bodies which support life being the hardest hit. It is on this basis that another look must be taken at the importance of water resources for rural development. Fresh water is a precious resource essential for sustaining life and undertaking any productive activity. It is estimated that 70 percent of available fresh water is used for Agriculture, the main occupation in rural areas. In the absence of an enhanced system of managing water resources, an efficient strategy to battle poverty in rural areas would be undermined. Efficient management of water resources implies progress in all the three pillars of sustainable development namely, social, economic and environmental. Ensuring access to safe drinking water is therefore fundamental towards enhancing good health of the human resource base of Ghana.
Due to bad water management practices, water related diseases kill an estimated three million people a year in developing countries with most of them living in rural areas. When 2017 World water Day in Ghana was marked, it was revealed that 40% of Ghanaians lack access to safe drinking water, whilst 50% of rural dwellers rely on unsafe water for drinking and other household activities. If the saying that water is life is anything to go by, then these statistics are indeed disturbing.
According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015, everyone in the world must have access to safe water by 2030. The critical question is, is this SDG target achievable in Ghana when important water bodies such as the River Ankobra in the Western Region, and the River Birem in the Eastern Region among others are being polluted by environmental activities such as illegal mining? It is worthy to indicate that forests are a precious reservoir of water that ensure favourable rainfall pattern and therefore should be saved from negative environmental practices. We should be mindful of the harm we are doing to ourselves and future generations by conniving with foreigners to degrade our forests.
It is sad to that in spite of the nation’s immense potential in the fishing industry which is a major source of employment for rural communities, Ghana imports 50 percent of its fish needs. Today, Countries such as Israel, Japan and Jamaica are making giant strides as a result of the attention they have given over the years to efficient management of water bodies to support aquatic life. Unfortunately many water bodies in rural communities in Ghana are unable to adequately support aquatic life as a result of the pollution. In the world where more than 70 percent of fisheries are overexploited developing countries such as Ghana that have comparative advantage of harnessing its potential in fish production require efficient water management strategies for optimum results in this sector.
The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies can be effective in dealing with mismanagement of water by collaborating with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Water Resources Commission and Non-Governmental Organizations that have management of water resources at heart. If the many eco-tourism sites such as the waterfalls and the lakes can be protected through prudent water management practices it would be a source of employment in rural communities and go a long way to minimise rural poverty and check rural- urban migration and its associated challenges.
The recent advocacy by the media against illegal mining and the attendant effects on the environment is priceless. It is important to note that the rural areas are the food baskets of Ghana’s economy, the fight against rural water pollution and any other life support system from ‘galamsey’ should therefore be a concern for all.
BY: DAVID OWUSU-AMOAH, HEAD OF RESEARCH, INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT (ISD).