Takoradi — Water bodies within the Ankobra Basin of the Western Region of Ghana are highly contaminated with faecal matter due to open defecation and other human activities.
The inhabitants of communities along the Ankobra Basin use the water that was tested and said to contain high rate of faecal matter, for cooking, washing, bathing and swimming.
A study carried out by Conservation Foundation (CF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and Water Resources Commission (WRC) - Ankobra Basin Office, to assess the quality of water in 28 communities within the basin, has revealed this health threat.
The affected communities, mostly in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem, Prestea Huni-Valley, Wassa Amenfi East, Wassa East districts, include Dadwen, Kofikrom, Domeabra, Tarkwa Banso, New Techiman, Kyekyewere, Essaman Kakraba, Simpa, Bonsa, Ankwawso, Bepo and Mile Ten and Half.
The rest are Efuanta, Kutukrom, Tumentu, Dwira Nsuaem, Awudua, Prestea, Esuoso, Atieku, Anwia, Asasetre, Wassa Akropong, Bawdie, Hiawa, Ampansie, Bamiankor, Domenase and Bonsawire.
The study forms part of the ongoing Watershed Project, under the Integrate Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives, aimed at tackling issues regarding contamination nature of water resources and eco-systems from which diseases can be contracted.
The study indicates that the people along the basin risk contracting diseases from drinking from the contaminated water bodies, posing serious threat to public health.
It said though the researchers did not see any faecal matter or human excreta in and around the river banks, where samples were taken, they found a lot of refuse dumps along the stretch of these water bodies.
This is an indication that open defecation may be going on up stream hence the faecal matter present, the report said.
It said the various contaminated water bodies were used to irrigate and moisten vegetables like cabbage, tomato, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, onion that gets to the market and often consumed raw as salads and other purposes.
"Therefore, there is a high risk of transmitting pathogenic bacteria, which can cause diarrhoea. Water with 10 per cent ⅝ cfu/100ml of coliforms looks clean to the eyes, and people may not be aware of the high contamination levels or the health implications. Most households, restaurants and chop bars located at these communities use these highly contaminated waters to prepare food which may also increase food borne transmission of diarrhoea infections," the study added.
It said "Microbial pollution of surface water can be detected by the changes in abundance of bacterial population. The presence of bacteria in surface water not only indicates the faecal contamination of water, but also the potential human health risks."
The test outlined high microbial contamination of water as almost all surface water contained various forms of faecal substances, the CF-WRC study reported, but, however, explained that the contaminations were in surface water than groundwater.
Commenting on the study, the Executive Director of Conservation Foundation (CF), an NGO, Mr Osei Yaw Owusu-Sekyere, who led the team, said refuse dumps were located closer to all the water bodies within the areas of study.
He said the river banks and streams had also been turned to gutters, refuse dumps and toilets and people defecate openly into water bodies.
According to Mr Owusu-Sekyere, said "we call on governmental agencies, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and the citizenry to collaborate and stop open defecation in the country. Government should provide the communities with boreholes since some communities do not have potable water apart from dugouts and the rivers or streams."
The Assistant Ankobra Basin Officer of WRC, Francis Acquah-Swanzy, called for effective implementation of the IWRM plan and WASH within the Ankobra Basin, to prevent the contamination of water bodies with faecal matter as a result of open defecation and other human activities.