In The Midst Of Plenty, We Are In Want Lack Of Water & Electricity Is Undermining Our Developmental Efforts
Ebo Quansah in Accra
A senior official of The Chronicle reported for work yesterday, with a pressing iron and his office wear tucked under his armpit. Power had gone off the previous night at his residence at the SSNIT Flats at Adenta, and had to carry his clothes to be ironed on his office desk.
He had barely finished ironing, when the first batch of visitors called in at the office. One of the early morning visitors asked to use the toilet. To the embarrassment of the official of this paper and his guest, water was not running and as a result, the cleaner had locked up the toilets.
Both water and electricity are in short supply in the national capital and throughout Ghana, touted to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world and which was officially pronounced to be a Middle Income country, while we all slept sometime in 2010.
The Ghana Water Company announced a programme of water rationing last week, justifying the drastic reduction in water supply to the national capital and its surrounding towns and villages.
The justification for this drastic reduction in water supply, according to the water company, is that four of the six filters at the Weija Water Treatment Plant had broken down. It is as if it is the fault of the people of Accra that maintenance culture at the company is lacking.
To add to the problems of water, on Wednesday, January 23, both state-run and independent newspapers carried paid advertisements from the Electricity Company of Ghana, under the heading: EMERGENCY LOAD SHEDDING.
“The Electricity of Ghana has been compelled to undertake emergency load-Shedding due to Generation Shortfall. We regret that that this unfortunate situation will continue for sometime until advised otherwise by our supplier.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and hope that the situation will soon be ratified to enable ECG provide stable power supply to our cherished customers,” the advertisement warned.
In Nigeria, the local media has named the country’s power generating authority (National Electricity and Power Authority – NEPA), Never Expect Power Always. It is a situation the average Nigerian had come to accept. In Nigeria, the general notion is that power supply could never be constant.
In Ghana, electricity supply was at best intermittent throughout 2010 and 2011. In the run-up to the general elections last December, there was an assurance that power outage would be a thing of the past.
As a matter of fact, one of the main pillars on which the ruling National Democratic Congress fought for and won the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections was never to re-visit power outages on the people of this country.
To buttress the government’s ‘I Care For You’ stance, then Interim Head of State, Mr. John Dramani Mahama told Ghanaians at the First Presidential Debate in Tamale on October 30, 2012, that power outages would stop by the end of November 2012. Indeed, by the time Ghanaians queued to vote on December 7 and 8, 2012, there was a semblance of regular supply of electricity.
Unfortunately, the optimism never lasted and by the time the year ended, power outages were assailing all parts of the country. I spent both the Christmas and New Year festivities in darkness.
Following a power failure in South-West Accra, power in my household failed to respond to treatment, even when the major problem had been sorted out. Unfortunately, several distress calls in person and on the line failed to be answered.
After that experience, I felt how it was to be one of the early cave men, who habited this earth, long before the Egyptians and their Pharaohs experimented with simple implements and led the world to civilization.
Yesterday, when I sat composing this piece, a colleague drew my attention to the definition of POWER by the Electricity Company of Ghana in the company’s calendar for 2013.
In the dream of ECG, P in Power stands for Professionalism, O for Openness, W for Wellbeing, E for Excellence and R for Reliability. One needs not stretch his or her imagination too far to appreciate that the average Ghanaian is being taken for a ride.
In 2011, the Public Utility Commission announced increases in both water and electricity tariffs. The Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Emmanuel Annan, said all critical expenditures by the utilities, including fuel required for production, had been covered in the new tariffs.
“The approved tariff is intended to support thermal power producers to procure the needed cargoes of light crude oil that would enable them generate the required electricity through thermal sources,” the PURC Chairman promised.
It is interesting to note that quite recently, when power outages were intensified, the nation was told that the generation of electricity had been affected by problems with the supply of gas from the West African Gas pipe-line.
To convince Ghanaians that the problem was being tackled, an announcement went forth that Ghana was developing its own gas supply by constructing a gas plant at Atuabo, in the Ellembele District of the Western Region.
In a typical Animal Farm solution to the problem, news men were ferried aboard a helicopter to observe workers busily laying pipes for the project in the sea.
If power outages are difficult to appreciate in a nation where consumers are milked in the name of supply, it is even more difficult to understand why water should be scarce in Ghana where fresh water is abundant.
It is estimated that in spite of the roof-top advertisement of building a Better Ghana, only one quarter of residents of the national capital receive continuous supply of water in the administration of the National Democratic Con Congress. Each day, 30 percent of Accra’s residents get water for 12 hours each day, five days a week.
Another 35 percent of residents are supplied for two days or less each week. In places like Adenta and other settlements at the outskirts of the capital, totaling about 10 percent of the city’s total population, are virtually without access to portable water.
The irony is that Ghana is well served with water resources. We are told by Geographers and experts in the typography of Ghana that the Volta Basin, consisting of the Oti, Daka, Pru, Sene and Afram Rivers, as well as the White and Black Volta, covers 70 percent of the country.
Another 22 percent of Ghana is covered by the Southwestern river system watershed comprising the Bia, Tano, Ankobra, and Pra Rivers. The coastal river system watershed comprising Ochi-Narkwa, Ochi-Amissah, Ayensu, Densu and Tordzie Rivers, covers the remaining eight percent of the country, according to information on the world-wide web.
In addition to all these, ground water is available in sedimentary rocks and sedimentary formations underlying the Volta basin. The Volta Lake, internationally recognized as one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, has a surface area of 8,500 square kilometers.
In all, water resources available to this country are estimated to be 53.2 billion square metric tonnes a year.
It is ironic that with this huge volume of water resources available to the country, Ghana has to rely on external support for up to 95 percent of the budget needed to supply portable water to the people.
For me as a social commentator, I do not believe that this nation is so poor that resources of state could not supply portable water and electricity to its citizens. Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation, we are told, is contributing to 70 percent of diseases in Ghana.
I do not believe we need any ghost to tell us that lack of clean water and electricity is undermining all efforts at getting this society to move forward. That is why the roof-top advertisement by this administration building a ‘Better Ghana’ should give way to a sober reflection.
This nation is far from the picture coming out of lenses clouded by ideological and parochial party slogans!
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