Privatisation and renamed ministry emphasise Ghana's priority

In November 2005, Ghana's Works & Housing Ministry added 'Water Resources' to its title and the Minister outlined the water and sanitation work in progress and coming up. Managing editor Robin Wiseman reports.

The importance the Ghanaian government attaches to the water sector is the reason why the word 'water' now appears in the title of the renamed Water Resources, Works & Housing Ministry. The announcement was made on 15 November by Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, MP, who at the same time confirmed the long-mooted privatisation of the management of the Ghana Water Company (GWC), which looks after water and sewerage in the country's major cities.

Under a five-year management contract, Dutch company Vitens International and South African water suppliers Rand Water Services will set up a Ghanaian-registered company to manage GWC. The Minister emphasised that this was only a management contract relating to urban water supply, and that GWC would therefore retain ownership of its assets.

Progress to development goals
The Ghanaian government's commitment towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of 78% of water supply coverage by 2015 and the Ghana Growth & Poverty Reduction Strategy objective of 87% coverage by 2015 remains "unflinching", said the Minister. The Ministry had been "aggressive" in the delivery of water, in both rural and urban communities, he said.
However, Owusu-Agyemang admitted that there had been problems with the management of the GWC for years. It was for this reason, he said, that, as part of the Urban Water Project, the company had entered into the management contract.
The E10.95 million contract will operate for five years and is being funded by the World Bank. Some US$10 million has been allocated by the World Bank for the "retrenchment" of 1524 members of staff.

Rural water success
The Community Water & Sanitation Agency (CWSA), which looks after Ghana's rural water and sanitation programmes has overseen an acceleration in provision in these sectors since the turn of the millennium. From 2001 to 2005, for instance, a total of 5157 boreholes were drilled and fitted with handpumps, compared with 3300 between 1994 and 2000.

In fact, the CWSA constructed 2288 new boreholes fitted with handpumps in 2004 alone, of which 215 were constructed in areas where guinea worm is endemic, resulting in a "considerable reduction" in the incidence of infection, according to the agency. Nevertheless, Minister Owusu-Agyemang said his ministry was "dismayed" by the "alleged increase" in the number of guinea-worm cases reported in the country and repeated the government's desire to eradicate the disease.
Similarly, 854 hand-dug wells have been constructed between 2001 and 2005, compared with 504 from 1994 to 2000. This work has helped increase access to potable water in rural communities from 46.4% to 51.7%, and the CWSA foresees "tremendous increase" in the next two years, as a result of projects going on at present.
For example, the Ministry is to commence the drilling of 1000 boreholes, 3000 household latrines and 200 institutional latrines in Ashanti, to be jointly funded by German bilateral KfW, the government, and the African Development Bank (ADB). Another project for the construction of 800 boreholes and two pilot small towns pipe systems for communities in the Ashanti Region, will commence in 2006. This too is to be funded by the ADB.

The CWSA also completed 50 small community pipe systems and 57 small town pipe systems in 2004. Some of the communities that benefited from these systems are Takorase and Donkorkrom in the Eastern Region and Akatsi and Dodze in the Volta Region.

Other completed small town water systems include the coastal belt project in the Ketu and Keta Districts in the Volta Region and Oyibi Abokobi/Oyarifa/Teiman water project in the Greater Accra Region.

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