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The Director of Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has called for a review of the country’s water purification system, revealing the current system fails to remove harmful toxins produced by algae in fresh water sources.
Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo said although the current water purification mechanism by the Ghana Water Company meets the WHO standards, it fails to clean hazardous planktons in Ghana’s water sources.
“If you look at the Weija water for instance, gradually the water is increasing in blue-green algae. With such waters if you want to treat and drink, you must also take into consideration removal of the algae because the algae toxins can cause kidney problems, liver problems, nervous system problems, heart problems. says Dr Ampofo
“Because we do not have that technology with our water treatment now, it means if there are a lot of algae in the water from a treatment point. You will be drinking these toxins and that is the danger we are facing now,” he said.
Dr Ampofo further revealed that the use of chlorine and alum in the current water treatment system only succeeds in destroying bacteria that may be present in the water source, but not the toxins produced by algae.
He made the comments Friday, on the sidelines of a week-long in-house review of activities of the Water Research Institute.
Among other things, Friday’s programme saw the presentation of findings on a myriad of water related issues by scientists at the Environmental Biology and Health division of the institute.
“We did work before 2010 and by then the level of algae in Ghana’s main water sources have come up to dangerous level, but now that we have a lot of waste being dumped into the water bodies, we need to find out the level now; because by now the level has exceeded the acceptable level of algae toxins in drinking water,” he said.
He attributed the increase in cancer cases among the youth to the situation.
“You may end up getting a lot of people with kidney problems in the country; a lot of people getting liver problems, nervous problems, brain disorders tumours leading to cancer and then you will not understand. It can easily come from drinking water,” he said.
He said his institute has informed the Ghana Water Company about the need to review the current water treatment process but that advice is yet to be heeded.
He recommended the use of very fine filters to remove the harmful algae toxins by the Water Company if the means of procuring appropriate chemicals is not available.
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The Council has already been granted an institutional accreditation to establish a College of Science and Technology (CCST) to run various science and research programmes at the graduate levels.
Dr. Victor Kwame Agyeman, Director General of CSIR, announced this at the maiden graduation ceremony of its Master’s Degree Programme in Bio-Economy and Natural Resources Management (ECORES) at Fumesua, near Kumasi. The ECORES programme is an academic collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) and has been so designed to equip students with specialized knowledge in natural resources and management skills to lead the efficient management of natural resources in the West African sub-region.
The first batch of eight (8) students were each awarded two masters’ degrees -executive Masters in Business Administration (eMBA) and Master of Science (MSc) in Natural Resources management. Dr. Agyeman said five out of the eight proposed to be run by CCST, had received approval by the National Accreditation Board (NAB) and would commence in September 2016. These include “MPhil Climate and Natural Resources Management”, “MSc Climate Change and Natural Resources Management”, “MPhil Fisheries Science”, “MPhil Aquaculture” and “MPhil Industrial Animal Nutrition and Feed Production”. He reminded the graduates to use the knowledge and skills acquired to aid radical transformation of natural resources management in the sub-region.
Professor Jukka Jurvelin, Dean of the UEF Faculty of Science and Forestry, said experts were increasingly needed to meet the challenges related to the environmental impact of land use and biodiversity decline. He said the ECORES programme was an opportunity to train new experts to take responsible actions to protect the natural resources.
Prof Joseph Cobbinah, Chairman of UEF-FORIG Graduate School, said lack of broad-based expertise was a major barrier to sustainable management of natural resources. He said the ECORES, based on the European Credits Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTs) for Higher Education, was a shift from the traditional MBA and MSc/MPhil programmes and designed specifically to blend business management and natural resources management.
Prof Cobbinah, who is also the President of CCST, said the College stood to benefit tremendously from the experience of the UEF-FORIG programme.
Dr. Daniel Ofori, Director of FORIG, said the ECORES programme symbolized the success story of international academic collaboration and praised the graduating students for their hard work.
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In the late 1970s, the government opened the sluice gate for private participation in tertiary education. Since then, private and some parastatal institutions have established tertiary institutions. For example, the Seventh Day Adventist Church established the Valley View University at Oyibi in 1979, as one of the private universities in Ghana to be granted national accreditation.
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Ghana has no problem with water sources, but potable water sources are diminishing at such a fast rate that the country faces a looming water crisis by the year 2030, if conditions continue to persist.
Scarier is the fact that there would be no treatable water source, either surface or ground water by 2030, should the rate at which the country’s water sources are being polluted continue, the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has warned.
The warning was issued by the Director of WRI, Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo, last Tuesday in an interview with the Daily Graphic on a day that had been set aside by the global community as World Water Day (WWD).
“There is the misconception that Ghana is 70 per cent covered with water. Even with the abuses, water will not depart from Ghana but the quality cannot be guaranteed,” he stated.
No respect for water
Dr Ampofo said many of the country’s water sources had been heavily polluted over the years with rubbish, chemicals used in mining such as mercury and inorganic fertilizer used for agriculture, because Ghanaians did not respect water and had taken it for granted.
But he cautioned that the combined effect of the increase in temperature, evaporation and the pollution of the country’s water sources were plunging the country into severe water crisis that would make Ghana a Sahelian country.
Citing examples of water bodies that were now extinct or were no more potable, he said “the Odaw River is now dead and not suitable for anything,” adding that global warming had resulted in a global rise in temperature of one per cent.
“In Ghana we can get about 5 per cent increase in temperature in some areas, so areas are beginning to dry up,” Dr Ampofo said. He stated that the rate at which the Densu River was drying up had also increased this year, just as the WRI had predicted before 1996.
He said “buffer zones are being abused with people now farming on river beds when they recede, therefore increasing the dryness and evaporation”.
Effects of polluted water usage
The pollution from agriculture, poor environmental sanitation and mining, apart from posing a threat to the availability of potable water, has also resulted in very serious health consequences for every Ghanaian.
According to Dr Ampofo, research conducted by WRI showed that the use of water contaminated with algae and chemicals, for agriculture results in kidney, nervous and heart diseases.
Expressing his exasperation, he said the CSIR had warned the government of where the country was heading if steps were not taken immediately to stop the incessant pollution of water sources, but little had been done.
“If you use the polluted water to irrigate your seedlings they will die. We are wishing the country the best but hoping that someone somewhere will listen. Either we stop abusing our water bodies now or abuse it for Ghana to become a Sahel country,” he warned.
Dr Ampofo stated that although hitherto it was the surface water bodies that were polluted, several tests conducted on water from many boreholes across the country showed that pollution of the groundwater had resulted in unwholesome water from the boreholes.
He lamented that many boreholes were being sunk in the country, but no one was checking the level of the country’s groundwater, adding, “If many boreholes are sunk in the same area the soil will cave in.”
Dr Ampofo stated that although the CSIR used to monitor boreholes in the country, the project, which was funded by Danish Development Agency (DANIDA), had since ended and the council lacked the needed funds to continue.
He said the fact that 500ml of water currently sold for GH¢1 showed that water was getting more expensive than fuel, which currently sells around GH¢3.37 for a litre.
Describing the high patronage of bottled and sachet water by people as a system failure, he said “we have failed as a country. We cannot provide basic water for the people. People do not trust the tap water produced by the Ghana Water Company.”
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Thirty agricultural technologies, including the release of high-yielding varieties of crops to ensure increased food production in the country, have been developed through the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP).The programme completes the first phase of the 10-year adaptability initiative by the WAAPP. The second phase ends next year.