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US$45.7m earmarked to improve rural sanitation

By: Kester Aburam Korankye

Parliament has approved a US$45.7 million loan facility to fund the Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project (SRWSP) which seeks to address the lack of water and sanitation facilities across rural Ghana.

The amount is aimed at supporting the government to expand access to and ensure sustainability of water supply and sanitation services in rural and small-town communities.

A report by the Parliamentary Joint committee on Finance and Works and Housing on the financing agreement between the government and the International Development Association, the World Bank group providing the funding, indicated that the approved amount was also aimed at strengthening district assemblies to improve subproject implementation and ensure long-term sustainable water supply and sanitation services at the rural level.

However, the project has a wider scope which include the completion of works for nine Small Town Water Supply Systems (STWSS) in the saline belt in the Central Region, upgrading of seven STWSS and finalise designs for two small town water supply systems in the Northern Region and installation of solar pumps on some of the SWTSS instead of the grid power pumps.

Lack of sanitation facilities
Research by a Ghanaian consulting firm, CDC Consult and presented at the National Basic Sanitation Forum in July 2017 indicated that 1.21 million households, forming 19.3 per cent of households in the country, were without toilets.

The research indicated that 80 per cent of the households interviewed could not afford a toilet facility without financial support because the average annual income of these households was GH¢3,787.

Open defecation free status
As a result, the second component of the project features a direct support of households for the construction of 20,000 additional household toilets through the provision of 70 per cent subsidies towards the cost of constructing the toilets and supporting  environmental health officers to run campaigns for the construction of household toilets with the aim of attaining Open Defecation Free (ODF) status in additional 490 communities.

Reasons for the additional funds
According to the report, the Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr Kofi Adda informed the committee that cost overrun was the major challenge the project faced.

This, he said, had resulted in higher expenditure than estimated.

Explaining the reason for the cost overrun, he indicated that the initial planned rehabilitation of the old pipe systems had been redesigned because the communities had far outgrown the initial design capacities.

In addition, he said storage tanks were inadequate since their capacities were below present requirements.

He explained that some communities had expanded to areas with an elevation higher than the tanks and could ,therefore, not be served by the existing tanks.

Amidst the already mentioned challenges exist yet another excruciating challenge that had resulted in the cost overrun.

Mr Adda said some communities were informed to have had high iron content in the water during the implementation of the project.

This, he said, called for the need to incorporate a larger number of iron removal plants for the targeted water supply systems in order to make them safe for drinking.

Payment of counterpart funding
Mr Adda said the beneficiary assemblies were not able to contribute an agreed five per cent counterpart funds and that affected the cost and execution of the project.

He added that the counterpart funding amount had been included in the additional financing agreement, as such, no beneficiary assembly would contribute to the project.

Considering  the immense benefits of the project, the committee recommended to Parliament to approve the loan as additional funding for the sustainable rural water and sanitation project.