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02.12.2009 General News

What Is Going On Here? Water, Power, Telephones - All Scattered

By Daily Graphic
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It is not unusual to have that occasional power cut or faulty telephone line or even interruptions with water supply. It happens even in the advanced countries.

But it is highly unusual and indeed abnormal to have consistent interruptions with all the three critical services at the rate we keep experiencing here.

We talk about stress levels going up these days. Pressure at workplaces, combined with that at home and driving on the streets of Accra; all these are dangerously compounding the stress levels in people’s lives of late.

What is even worrying is that those we dutifully pay money to every month to provide us with the necessary services such as water, power and telephone are sending our stress levels through the roof.

What is going on with our essential services in this 21st century when technology is driving the day and solving difficult assignments at the press of a button?

I happened to be home all day last week Tuesday. If I had a doctor close by, I am sure he would have immediately ordered me to be put on stress relieving medication or is it anti-depressants?

Power suddenly went off while I was in the middle of doing multiple chores. Water was the next to follow. Almost immediately, the water stopped running through the taps and one could not even call a neighbour to find out if the problem was local since Dansoman has become a target lately.

The dialling tone on the land line was off. When a scheduled meeting was cancelled for that Tuesday, I thought it was an opportunity to stay home and do some cleaning. I had therefore brought down all my curtains to wash.

In the middle of doing one load of laundry in the washing machine around 10.30 a.m, power went off without any prior warning.

What could I do but to pray that it came back on soon? Within 20 minutes, water was off too. I was in a bit of a state. What was going on?

It was not until 1 p.m. before power came back on. I hurriedly turned my overhead tank on and switched the machine back on to continue with my laundry. The machine just finished with the spinning of the load when power went off again at 1.40 p.m.

My prayer to get my laundry done had been heard so I was not too bothered by the power going off again. Then at exactly 3 p.m. we had power restored. Barely 15 minutes later, at 3.15 p.m. it went off again.

It came back on at 3.30 p.m. and then went off again at 3.55 p.m. It was not until 7.50 p.m. that we finally had power restored.

In a matter of a little over nine hours, the on-off, off-on game was played eight times. During this period, within a matter of less than one hour, that is between 3 p.m. and 3.55 p.m. however, power was turned on and off four times! This will drive anyone bananas.

Does anybody care about the damage being caused to people’s electrical appliances? This must be a clear worrying time for those who have no protection for their electrical appliances; extra cost it is.

Indeed much as some of us empathise with our energy providers, their treatment of consumers is becoming a bit too much. These are the times one wishes there were alternative service providers.

We suffered a power trip the Sunday before at around 7.30 a.m. when I was getting ready to iron my clothes for church but luckily, it was restored at 8.10 a.m. Just last Sunday too, power went off at 6.40 a.m..

It tried to come on at 6.50 a.m. and then went off again almost instantly. Is this not stressful?

How long can we continue to blame such happenings on machines? How about the people looking after the machines to make sure that they work to perfection?

Someone is simply not at it. Instead of fixing the problem once and for all, what we keep on hearing is a plea to bear with the service providers because they are working with obsolete machines some of which are ancient.

How can we bear with our providers when year after year the managers of the services have simply not exhibited any sense of innovation but continue to just tighten bolts and nuts when others are scrapping the old for new technology?

Enjoying all the pecks that go with their positions, these managers are where they are because they proved at their selection interviews that they had what it took to fix the system, including replacing antiquated machinery that have outlived their usefulness.

They have been given the responsibility to transform and ensure the efficient delivery of utilities to consumers. What is going on is a clear indication that their commitment to creating and fixing the system is not the tune that the managers over the period have sung.

Last Tuesday when we experienced one of such failed supervisory works by the managers in charge, at least they managed to get power back before the night was out with shouts and cheers from the neighbourhood as if someone was doing us a favour.

Unfortunately, no such cheers ever go to the water folks. Any wonder our punishment last Tuesday with the lack of water supply which lasted for a clear 36 hours?

And what did we hear last week when some members of the new board of directors of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) visited the Weija Dam?

According to a production manager of the Aqua Vitens Rand (AVRL), water supply to some parts of Accra will not see any improvement soon if the erratic power supply to the GWCL treatment plant at Weija is not stabilised.

According to him, the problem is further compounded by obsolete equipment, some of which are between 20 and 60 years old.

This is the most unfortunate statement that I have heard coming from a public officer who has the power to change things for the better. We had load shedding not as long ago as two years.

A lot of serious-minded businesses, big and small, including my hairdresser, invested in power generating plants. And so did individuals who wanted to enjoy some comfort and security.

Is GWCL telling us that they do not have power generators that can power water to its consumers when the national grid fails us? As important stakeholders committed to prompt settlement of our bills, we do not want to hear excuses.

What we want is a better management of the system so that whether there is power or not, erratic or constant, water will at least flow through our taps. As for machines being as old as 20 to 60 years old, that is the least of the consumer’s problems.

What the consumer wants to hear is whether the managers put in charge have ensured that the right machinery and equipment as well as good calibre of personnel are in place to deliver results.

Consumer rights have been taken for a very long ride. What protection is available to the Ghanaian consumer to fight some of the injustices and unfairness particularly when it has to do with such essential services as water, telephone and electricity?

We have been taken for granted for far too long.

Our electrical gadgets are continuously being destroyed with erratic power cuts. Homes and even hospitals and clinics are left unclean because we do not have enough water to go round, more so to clean.

We have all had to invest in mobile phones not because they are any better but because our land lines have continued to be ghost lines.

Something is fundamentally wrong and it is time to make people to account for their lack of initiatives in the jobs they are paid to do. Our managers have no reason to be working with antiquated equipment when they themselves went to school to learn with and about modern equipment.

How are they putting their skills and knowledge to work if the machines they are supervising are outdated? Is the incompatibility then the reason for all the woes we are going through with our utility services today?

Surely, 2010 should be a better year for consumers of energy, water and telephone. The on-off, off-on palaver must stop. That is our New Year wish.

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