Access to water must be horizontal, benefit pro-poor communities

To achieve goal six of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) which ensures universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030, government has been urged to prioritize the sector and implement reforms that are pro-poor in nature.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), water scarcity affects over 40 percent of people around the world. With the increase of global temperatures as a results of climate change, the situation is set to be alarming if measures are not taken to tackle the menace.

It is estimated that nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases. A projected number of 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water in the last 28 years, however, supply of safe drinking water has been dwindling on the African continent.

A report conducted in Ghana by the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC Ghana), an independent international non-profit organization, estimated that only 27 percent of the population have access to safe drinking water.

This means that close to 8 million, out of the projected 28 million Ghanaians have access to drinking water. This suggest that the country is making slow progress in achieving the set targets of the SDG.

Budget

To harness the supply of water to ensure more people get access to portable drinking water, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, during the presentation of the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policies to parliament, noted that under the Water for All Agenda, the policy when streamlined would lead to expansion of urban water systems.

The water projects to be expanded in the next fiscal year include phase two of Kpong Water Supply, Aqua Africa Water Projects, Wenchi Water Projects and some others. In addition, nine and five water systems are expected to be constructed in the Northern and Central Regions respectively.

To ensure that such social interventions are in line with the needs and easily accessible to pro-poor communities, a development and planning policy analyst, Dr. Kwame Obeng Nti pointed that the development pattern on the continent has been a major challenge mitigating the developmental process.

He noted that instead of horizontal pattern, the module of development commonly practiced on the continent is the vertical module, adding, such system makes it increasingly difficult to extent water to pro-poor people.

Speaking to the Goldstreet Business, Dr. Obeng Nti asserted that to promote and ensure the ultimate goal of decentralization, water planning process must start from the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and they should be empowered to take charge in the of providing water in the localities.

“The planning process must start from the assemblies. They must identify their goals, plan prioritize their needs and funding for the projects must be available. When the assemblies begin to partner with private sector in the localities, they are capable of finding innovative ways of delivering services to the poor”, he said.

Siting major water reforms in Kenya, Philippines and Cambodia during an inclusive service delivery forum in Accra, Dr. Obeng Nti explained that the mandate of the utility service providers largely focus on immediate returns as extending services to communities involve huge initial capital outlet, thus making it very difficult for more people to benefit from their services.

By Dundas Whigham