A major recommendation made at Mole XXI was that a climate change thematic network within the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector should be established.
Mr Ben Ampomah, Executive Secretary, Water Resources Commission, who made the proposal, observed that in the wake of climate change the fundamental challenge would be the development of water governance systems to ensure that strategies are based on a solid understanding of the impacts of climate change on WASH services delivery systems.
One of the key roles of civil society is advocacy but that may prove fruitless in an environment of hostile competition. Of course, how does civil society advocate for collaboration between sector governance institutions when they are divided because each wants to be acknowledged as the ‘first to do it’?
Therefore, shared learning (including research) and joint interventions may be the way out for WASH sector actors. On the other hand, scattered efforts and competition among NGOs and civil society will not augur well for Ghana’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
According to Mr Ampomah, the long-term impacts of climate change regarding the demands of and threats to water resources should be of great concern to the WASH sector. And, WASH sector and all water practitioners should be keenly involved in climate change research and consider it as a manageable issue.
The stark reality
Water management cannot satisfactorily cope with current climate variability; large flood and drought damages may occur. Water demand is also anticipated to grow in the coming decades.
Dr Barnabas Amisigo of the CSIR-Water Research Institute, stated in Climate Change Impacts on the Water Resources of Ghana that climate change would have adverse impacts on the country’s water resources. Specifically, climate change has impacts on surface water availability; groundwater recharge; flooding, drought and water pollution and sea water intrusion into inland water bodies. Thus, knowledge of the direction and magnitude of these impacts would be vital in developing the necessary responses to the challenges posed.
There are two main ways for responding to these impacts; mitigation and adaptation, according to Dr Amisigo. Specific actions may include rainwater harvesting techniques for both potable and non-portable use; water recycling techniques for both industrial and non-potable domestic use and in-field rainwater and runoff harvesting techniques for soil moisture augmentation and conservation for agricultural production.
Also, streambed and groundwater storage systems, to make water available in the dry periods with little loss to evaporation, can be part of the interventions.
According to Dr Amisigo, the promotion of cross-sectoral water resources development in order to avoid the dominance of a single water use sector can also be a direct response measure.
Collaboration: effective strategy in responding to climate change
Raising the awareness of the general population on the impacts of climate change and building the capacity of all sectors of the populace to participate in the formulation and implementation of sustainable water resources management are required responses.
These mechanisms cannot be effective when they are carried out by actors operating in solitude. The need for the integration of water governance institutions into existing governmental/decentralised institutions and a clear definition of roles and responsibilities cannot be overemphasized. This will definitely prevent duplication of efforts and improve efficiency.
Likewise, civil society actors can make more impact by working together. Responding to climate change will require effective collaboration and networking will be important. Improving harmonisation and alignment will lead to strong learning and enhancement of adaptive capacity of the water sector.
Networking can make interventions more effective and reduce the effects of climate change on all persons, especially the vulnerable, including women, children and the disabled.
In the communiqué issued at the end of Mole XXI, participants urged all stakeholders to continue to partner with each other with the aim of providing sustainable and affordable services for the Ghanaian populace.
To wit, they tasked CONIWAS, RCN and knowledge institutions to document approaches used in water and sanitation interventions by various actors at all levels to ensure that best practices can be shared and utilised in project interventions.
It was also recommended that civil society organisations should work with their partners to ensure that project proposals are done in consonance with national systems to fit into National Programmes.
Participants further encouraged civil society to include education on climate change in their activities to improve knowledge and to change attitudes and practices that go to exacerbate the effects of climate change. Mitigation and adaptation measures pertaining to climate change should be disseminated, in addition to applying indigenous ways of dealing with climate change.