The change in rainfall patterns. Extreme weather events. Reduction in ground water levels. Water scarcity. Rising sea levels affecting salinity of coastal water resources. These issues are real and all point to the fact that climate change is happening, and it is happening now.
Everywhere you look and with every turn, you can see the impact of climate change for many people living in vulnerable communities, the negative impact is exacerbating their precarious situation and impeding their access to basic necessities such as WASH facilities
The statement, “Climate Crisis is a Water Crisis” is true in every sense of the word. Over the years, within the West African sub-region, a series of drought events since the 1970s as a result of declining rainfall is negatively affecting the availability of safe drinking water.
The West African region is a region where population growth, economic development and urbanisation are continuously increasing, with a growing demand for water. In a sub-region where many people still depend on surface water sources, such as rivers and ponds, which are vulnerable to shocks and disasters, governments – including ours- need to have a more strategic approach to implementing measures that are more climate resilient and focusing on improving access to WASH. In essence, there needs to be a shift in focus to a more climate resilient WASH approach to tackling climate change.
What does Climate Resilient WASH Mean?
Climate resilient WASH refers to WASH services, behaviours and systems that continue to deliver benefits despite extreme weather and other climate induced hazards. It requires approaches that enable people and systems to persist, adapt and transform in the face of uncertainty and threats associated with climate change to ensure water security and continued sanitation and hygiene. This is achieved through inclusive risk-based planning focused on addressing inequalities, development of appropriate coping strategies, implementation of high quality, robust WASH options and strengthening of WASH systems.
It is important to note that this approach alone cannot deliver resilience. There is an interconnectedness between policies that bother on environment, agriculture, livelihood, urban planning among others which cannot be overlooks. It is interesting when you consider the interlinked nature of issues within the context of climate change and water. Climate change is affecting water resources which is in turn affecting sanitation which is also in turn impacting sanitation which is also in turn impact hygiene. This creates an unending cycle of negative impacts that leaves vulnerable people worse off. The link between climate change and livelihoods is clearly seen in the negative effects of low rainfall on smallholder farmers who rely solely on rainfall for harvest.
Building the resilience of communities to withstand the negative impact of climate change is required now, not in the near future and certainly not in a plan that needs to sit in the pipeline. Fortunately for Ghana, there are existing policies, strategies and plans that are aimed at tackling climate change and improving resilience.
Policy Response to Climate Change and Water Scarcity
Ghana has developed national policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks designed to respond to climate change and water scarcity. The National Environment Policy (NEP), National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) – with its Action Programme for Implementation, and National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy all have mechanisms and actions aimed at tackling climate change and mitigating its effect.
The most profound thing to note about all of these policies is the fact that they point to adaptation as crucial to addressing the potential impacts of climate change and disaster risks and aim to accelerate agricultural modernisation, enhance sustainable natural resource management and improve private-sector competitiveness.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) which was launched by the Government of Ghana in 2021 aims to increase societal awareness and preparedness for climate change and enhance the mainstreaming of climate change into national development planning. The NCCAS seeks to ensure a consistent, comprehensive and a targeted approach to increasing climate resilience and decrease vulnerability of the populace, deepen awareness and sensitisation of the general public particularly policy makers about the critical role of adaptation in national development efforts, position Ghana to draw funding for meeting her national adaptation needs, strengthen international recognition to facilitate action and facilitate the mainstreaming of climate change and disaster risk reduction into national development.
While these policies, strategies, actions and framework affirms Ghana’s resolve to lessen the potential hardships that climate change impacts may pose to the sustainable development of the country and provides strategic direction and coordinates issues of climate change in Ghana, the prioritisation of these issues remains yet to be seen.
WaterAid Ghana is calling on the Government of Ghana to:
- Operationalise the national climate adaptation plan and other relevant policies.
- build the human capacity required to understand climate change issues and deliver sustainable WASH services in the context of a changing climate.
secure increased investment of at least US$1 billion each year from 2020 to 2030 to deliver resilient WASH for all.
- prioritise clean water in our national climate adaptation planning as a critical line of defence against the impact of climate change.
- Disseminate and implement climate change related policies, frameworks and guidelines