From: Edmond Gyebi, Tamale
The Tamale Metropolis and its surrounding communities are reeling under another acute water shortage, within the last one month. Although the Metropolis had within the last three years enjoyed constant supply of water from the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), the current situation seems to pose a serious threat.
But officials at the GWCL continue to put the blame at the doorsteps of the Volta River Authority (VRA) for an alleged insufficient supply of power to the Tamale Water Station at Dalon.
The Public Relations Officer of the GWCL, Mr. Nicholas Nii Abbey explained that the problem was a technical one which had to do with power supply.
According to him, between 1 st January and 31 st January 2012, the GWCL recorded 63 hours of power cuts, and from February 1 st to 7 th the company again had 31 hours of power interruptions from the VRA which sums up to about 94 hours in less than two months.
Mr. Nii Abbey further explained that with every one hour power failure, the residents of Tamale would automatically have about four hour interruption in the flow of the water, which travels from Dalon to distribution plants in Tamale.
However, visit by this reporter to some of the communities revealed some disappointing pictures, especially at the Tamale Islamic Senior High School, where some students were seen joining taxis to the Kamina Barracks to buy water, while the less privileged ones are seen trekking all the way to Kamina, with their jerry cans. They, however, refused to be captured by my camera.
Some Children report to school after nine o'clock in the morning because they have to spend dawn hours looking for water.
Even though some areas like Gurugu, Bi-water, Jisonayili, Choggu, Tunayili and Yong-Duuni, which are located along the main water lines receive adequate water supply, other areas like Lamashegu, Lamakara, Zogbeli, Tishegu, SSNIT flats, Foe, Vittin Estate, Sakasaka Quarters, and the Central Business District of Tamale constantly face water problem.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Dr. Ken Sagoe earlier this week complained about the emerging water crisis at the facility, which he indicated had affected the operations of the hospital, especially the Emergency and Labour Wards.
At the moment, almost all the restaurants, chop bars, car washing bays, sachet water producers and other business are left with no option than to depend on Water Tanker Services at an exorbitant fees. Some Residents of Lamashege are now depending on one of the abandoned Dams along the Tamale-Kumasi road, which previously was patronized largely by livestocks.
Currently, a bag of sachet water is sold between GH¢2.50.00 and GH¢3.00 in the Tamale Metropolis and a sachet costs GHp10.00.
WATER SUPPLY IN TAMALE
Perennial water crisis is certainly not alien to the people of Tamale. The Metropolis has been confronted with the issue of acute water shortage since 1974, through to the latter part of 2008.
Until 2008, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) was fatally confronted with the challenge of meeting the water needs of the people. Even though several strategies were adopted by the management of the company to mitigate the effects of the water crisis, since they did not have the capacity to apprehend it.
While many of the residents were spending precious hours in search of non-existing water, and depending on guinea worm infested water sources, the GWCL management also resorted to their usual water rationing system and using water tankers to supply water to the Ministries, Departments, health facilities and even some learning institutions.
However, the outcome of their strategies brought about a negligible effect, just like dropping a bucket of water into the sea, as a result of the increase in population and business establishments.
In those periods especially from 2004 to 2008, the GWCL consistently complained about breakdowns in their equipments at both the water intake point at Dalun and the treatment plant at Nawuni to restore normal water supply to Tamale.
The equipments could no longer support the operations of the GWCL to supply the projected 4 million gallons of water each day, but could only provide less than 2.4 million gallons as against the expected 10 or 12 million gallons required by the people of Tamale.
AGITATIONS FROM STAKEHOLDERS
As a result of the worsening nature of the water crisis, especially between 2004 and 2006, several agitating groups embarked on series of demonstrations and issuing of petitions to the then government, led by President John Agyekum Kufuor to adopt means of mitigating the problem.
One of such vibrant pressure groups was the Concerned Citizens Association of Tamale (CCAT) led by one Alhassan Basharu Daballi, who described the then ruling NPP government as 'insensitive' to the plights of the people of Tamale.
The Leadership of the CCAT, apart from their petition, press conferences and demonstrations, also went to the Castel to further draw the attention of the government to the escalating water situation that had engulfed Tamale.
At one point, the then President Kufuor, at a public forum in Tamale, attacked the Concerned Citizens for making so much noise without ascertaining or finding out measures that were being taken to address the issue.
Other stakeholders, including Chiefs in the various communities within the Tamale Metropolis, also on several platforms added their voice to the call for the rectification of the water situation.
The three Members of Parliament (MPs) for Tamale North, Tamale South and Tamale Central, Alhaji Sumani Zakari, Lawyer Haruna Iddrisu and Alhaji Inusah Fuseini respectively, also took the matter to the floor of Parliament for serious discussions and deliberations, where they vehemently attacked the NPP government, for being insensitive to the people.
They bemoaned what they termed the disastrous consequences of the water crisis on the people, businesses and how it was affecting the operations of most of the health facilities in and around the city.
According to the MPs, the perception held by the residents of Tamale was that the Government of NPP was punishing them because they voted against the ruling Party in the 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections.
The members said there had been several promises since 2001 but nothing had been done about the water situation. They called for an immediate solution to the water problem, which they said was capable of bringing life in the sprawling northern city at a standstill.
HOW THE TAMALE WATER CRISIS WAS TACKLED
Following the public outcries and agitations, the then NPP government instituted some interim measures to reduce the effect of the crisis. The Kufuor-led administration tasked the Ghana Water Company Limited to rehabilitate the pumps at the water intake point at Dalun and the treatment plant at Nawuni to restore normal water supply to Tamale.
The GWCL was also given funds to hire private water tankers to ensure enough supply of water to the people until the problem was solved. But the attempt could not entirely bring relief to the people since the demand for water far exceeding the supply from the water tankers.
In the long-term, the NPP Government with funding from the Dutch Government in 2006 contracted Biwater International Company to execute the Tamale Water Rehabilitation and Expansion Project at the cost of 45 million Euros.
The then Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang who performed the sod cutting ceremony said upon completion, the project would provide 9.3 million gallons of water a day and another 1.1 million gallons into reservoirs to serve the people within the Tamale Metropolis.
The project included the duplication of transmission of main pipelines, rehabilitation and refurbishment works at the existing treatment plant and the construction of a new plant. It started in August 2006 and completed in November 2008.
The Tamale Water Expansion and Rehabilitation Project also saw existing pipelines in many areas in the metropolis rehabilitated and extended to Vittin, Airforce Station, Business Secondary School, Ghana Secondary School, Lamashegu, Adubiliyili, UDS areas and Tugu-Yapale.
THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE OF NDC
A year after assumption of office, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government described as 'shoddy work' the Tamale Water Rehabilitation and Expansion Project, that was executed by the NPP administration.
The then Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alban Kingsford Bagbin made the statement in Tamale at a stakeholders forum hours after the launching of a 77.34 million dollar facility from the World Bank to provide safe drinking water for over 600,000 rural folks in 54 districts in six regions of Ghana under the Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project SRWSP).
The Minister predicted that the residents of Tamale and its surrounding communities were going to face serious water crisis in 2013, if measures were not taken by the current government to correct the shoddy works.
Mr. Bagbin asserted that the quality of material and how they were installed and as a result of poor monitoring and supervision, there were going some visible signs of deterioration at the time he was speaking on December 2010.
He indicated that some of the huge pipes were supposed to be buried 2 feet beneath the ground, but in most of the areas that trenches were dug, they were not even up to one foot, thereby exposing most of the pipes to dangers.
He, therefore, announced plans by the government of National Democratic Congress (NDC) to commence further rehabilitation and expansion works in 2011 to ensure that the people of Tamale continue to get adequate water supply.
The Minister said that his Ministry was almost completing negotiations with the various funding bodies, including Hapoalim Bank of Isreal, Hidrobiente Group, African Development Bank and two other Chinese Companies to provide funding for the Tamale and other major projects in other regions.
Mr. Bagbin hinted also that the government was going to construct over 20,000 boreholes in 50 districts across Ghana of which 14 districts in Northern Region would have benefited.
The Minister further dropped a 'bombshell' to blacklist any contractor who had executed shoddy works, in the past regimes at the expense of the Ghanaian tax payer but were paid huge sums of money. But the ruling government is yet to carry out any of the earlier stated projects promised by Mr. Bagbin.