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.
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.
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.”
There are several Research and Development programmes going on in the 13 Research Institutes coming under the broad thematic areas of the following:
THEMATIC AREA 1: FOOD SECURITY AND POVERTY REDUCTION
Food security is defined in its most basic form as access by all people at all times to the food needed for a healthy life. The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger globally.
Key issues to be addressed by CSIR under this research theme include:
- Cereals and Legumes
- Roots, Tubers, Horticultural (Vegetables & Fruits) and Industrial Crops
- Forest, Trees and Plant Resources (Natural Products)
- Livestock and Poultry
- Fisheries and Aqua-culture
- Soils, Mechanization, Agro-food processing
- Biotechnology (Genetics, Germplasm Conservation, Bio-prospecting and Bio-processing)
Other cross cutting research on the theme will focus on entrepreneurial livelihood opportunities in rural labor markets, especially for women, the youth and other disadvantaged groups; Land access rights, Benefit Sharing, markets and micro-finance; ensuring security and improved incomes from agricultural activities; promotion of adequate or relevant agriculture policy; promotion of health, safe environmental conditions, food safety issues, nutrition, and gender equality.
THEMATIC AREA 2: CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION & GREEN TECHNOLOGY
The climate change crisis and development needs of the world’s poor require us to acknowledge the necessity and urgency for both continued growth at the current pace, and rapid greening of this growth strategy. Serious environmental problems such as ecosystem disturbance, climate change, water and air pollution, and rising sea levels can be seen as the unintended consequences of global development processes. Within the past 40 years, temperature has increased in Ghana by about 1°C, whilst total amount of rainfall has decreased by about 20% in the forest zone of the country. The impacts of the rising temperatures and variable rainfall pattern have had serious consequences on the socio-economic development of the country, food security, water resources, health and livelihoods of the citizens of Ghana. In an effort to minimise the impacts of climate change, the country has pursued a number of programs and strategies necessary to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including research and the development of climate change strategic policies and actions. The climate change, environmental conservation and green technologies research programme of CSIR will thus focus on the following:
- Soil, Water and Biodiversity Conservation
- Climate Change Mitigation (Including REDD+)
- Climate Change adaptation and Social Development
- Pollution and Waste Management, (Including Bio-Remediation)
- Green Technologies for Sustainable Development
For mitigation research, the CSIR will focus on REDD+, and other intervention such as agricultural biotechnology to produce crops varieties with enhanced carbon sequestration; conservation tillage for CO2 and methane mitigation; and Biochar. On the other hand adaptation research activities at CSIR will be focused on the adoption of agroforestry practices; crop diversification; planting of drought-resistant and short-season varieties and introduction of practices to enhance soil moisture retention in fields among others. Cross cutting research studies in this area will include governance/tenure barriers and the associated vulnerabilities to climate change adaptation and mitigation in Ghana; and monitoring of natural resources at risk for long-term sustainability and resilience of the vegetation, farmers and local communities.
The research on green technologies on the other hand will focus on how environmental conservation can play an essential role in sustaining economic development. In addition, CSIR researchers will look at how natural capital can be manipulated to yield considerable economic dividends for local communities which are dependent on agricultural production and natural resources for their livelihoods. CSIR will continue to investigate how economic development can be used to provide a solid material foundation for environmental protection efforts, enabling governments to take a better care of their ecosystems, and equip them financially and technologically for the fight against climate change. Green growth aimed at achieving harmony between economic growth and environmental sustainability is just what Ghana needs to obtain long-term and well-rounded human development. Green growth can be defined as “fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies”. By maximizing the synergies between economic development and environmental protection, the concept of green growth emphasizes that strategic environmental policies can not only foster environmental sustainability at a low cost, but also have the potential to sustain long-term economic growth In other words, CSIR's research work will seek to ensure that strategic climate policies are not framed as a choice between the environment and economic development, but rather as a choice between effective measures to achieve balance between the two dimensions.
THEMATIC AREA 3: MATERIAL SCIENCE & MANUFACTURING
Research and innovation in the field of materials science and manufacturing by the CSIR, its partners and stakeholders will aim to improve industry competitiveness. The CSIR is in a unique position to add value and impact to the materials and manufacturing industries in Ghana. CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing's strategy is centered around three main programmes, namely;
- Material Science (Wood, Metals, Integrated Materials)
- Industrial Products (Bio-Resource and Bio-Products Engineering)
- Nanotechnology and Nano Products
CSIR will also work towards the development of materials which are preferred by Ghanaian industries. The materials will include: Metallic Alloys, integrated wood-plastic materials, Superplastic Materials, Ceramics and Glasses, Composites, Amorphous Materials, Nanomaterials, Biomaterials, Multifunctional Materials, Smart Materials, Engineering Polymers, Functional materials, Superconducting Materials, Structured Materials, Hard/Soft Magnetic Materials and Crosscutting materials Ductility.
Under this thematic area, CSIR will also work in priority areas such as: Casting, Powder Metallurgy, Welding, Sintering, Heat Treatment, Thermo-Chemical Treatment, Machining, Plastic Forming, Quality Assessment, Automation Engineering Processes, Robotics, Mechatronics, Technological Devices and Equipment, Production and Operations Management, Production Planning and Control, Manufacturing Technology Management, Quality Management, Environmental Management, Safety and Health Management, Modeling, analysis and simulation of manufacturing processes. Micro and Nano-fabrication, materials processing and technology, Engineering Optimization, Product Design and Development.
THEMATIC AREA 4: ENERGY AND PETROLEUM
This thematic area will focus on climate-friendly energy production. Research work will critically analyze energy sources in order to provide information to decision-makers on the most appropriate source or combination of sources for a reliable and sustained supply of power to households and industry.
CSIR energy and petroleum research in Ghana will focus on helping to build capacity and resources of local communities to adapt to the impact of climate change in the energy sector and to benefit from modern climate-friendly technologies. As Ghana's economy continues to grow, demand for energy will increase and emissions will increase. Climate-friendly energy pathway, which is a roadmap of energy use options to ensure low emission of greenhouse gases, is therefore urgently needed. CSIR's research will help develop and promote climate-friendly bio-energy pathway for energy security in Ghana.
This is important because indigenous primary energy sources in Ghana amounts to 7.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent (2007 data from Energy Commission). This is about 11.5 times the annual energy generated by the two national hydroelectric plants at Akosombo and Kpong. It is estimated that about 16 million m3 of wood valued at approximately US $200 million is consumed in various forms as energy per annum. This accounts for more than 75% of all sources of energy consumed in Ghana. This is followed by hydro-electric energy which comprise 5-10% and solar energy which has less than 1%. Of the primary energy sources, only 9% of energy reaching the final consumer was in the form of electricity, while 65% arrived as biomass (firewood and charcoal).
The overall objective of the project is to develop and promote a climate-friendly bio-energy pathway for energy security in Ghana in order to support sustainable development and reduce poverty.
The immediate objectives are to:
- Develop a climate-friendly energy pathway in Ghana
- Develop domestic energy security strategies for Ghana.
- Promote climate-friendly bioenergy options for sustainable rural livelihoods.
- Support management of rural landscape that integrates use of bioenergy (including charcoal) with agroforestry and conservation issues.
- Develop climate-friendly energy models. CSIR will also work towards the creation of climate-friendly pathways
- Establish sustainable energy mix for energy-deficit zones in the country.
- determine domestic energy security strategies
- Determine local communities’ resilience to the impact of climate variability in relation to energy availability and supply.
- Determine local communities' capacity to adapt to climate-friendly energy options.
- Generate and analyse data on carbon stock and biomass increments suitable for REDD+ projects. This will among others include assessments of total ecosystem carbon balances
CSIR's research activities will focus on the following:
- Oil and Gas (including Cathodic Protection System)
- Renewable Energy including Bio-energy and Bio-gas
- Energy and Oil by-Products (Bitumen)
- Metrology and Industrial Engineering
Some of the other research topics the CSIR will embark on include: fluid flow dynamics in porous media, porous media characterization, virtual intelligence applications, investment and decision analysis, petroleum geosciences and wind turbines and farms.
THEMATIC AREA 5: BIOMEDICAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Biomedical and Public Health research at CSIR will focus on human and animal epidemiology (including research into infectious diseases, clinical epidemiology and in the field of risk evaluation), Biostatistics, Health Communication, Health Policy and Nutrition. Other research programmes under this theme will include:
- Plant and Animal Health (Pathology, Virology, Entomology, Micro-Biology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology)
- Genetics, Germplasm Conservation, Bio-prospecting and Bio-processing
- Bio-Informatics, Bio-Physics and Bio-Chemistry
- Biomedical, Biosafety and Public Health Ethics
THEMATIC AREA 6: ELECTRONICS AND ICT
CSIR's research in the area of Electronics, Information, Communications and Technology will focus on developing simple electronic tools and equipment for use by local communities. We will also focus on the development of electronic communication systems and solving electronic communications engineering problems, including the utilisation of science and math applied to practical problems in the field of communications. We hope to develop next generation communication devices.
CSIR research work will thus focus on the following areas;
- Computing and Software Systems (Electronic and Computing Engineering)
- Electrical and Electronic Systems and Design
- Information and Communication System, including Geographic and Management Information System
- Robotics and Mathematical Sciences
Other research areas will include Computer Hardware Architecture, Computer Networks, Multimedia Systems and Machine Learning; telecommunications, broadcasting and other communications engineering technologies; industrial electronics and instrumentation; semiconductor applications, manufacture and test engineering; systems analysis and controls engineering, software and hardware engineering.
THEMATIC AREA 7: SCIENCE AND PEOPLE
The research agenda of CSIR will continue to be re-aligned with the development priorities of government and development partners by putting research in the context of socio- economic development and sustainable resource utilization. The Primary Focus of CSIR Research will be on Livelihood Transformation and Economic Development. This is in line with national priorities as outlined in the Ghana Agenda for Shared Growth and Development (GASGD). The CSIR will thus also focus on research on social protection, which has the potential to reduce the vulnerability of poor people to the extent that they can manage moderate risk without external support. Thus innovative social protection measures that move significant numbers of poor people out of vulnerability and extreme poverty into more productive and resilient livelihoods will be the primary focus of CSIR research.
In addition, CSIR will present to Government an Annual Report on the Contribution of Science and Technology to the Economic Development of the Country. The CSIR will also hold annual press conferences on key CSIR technologies and their impact on economic development. An S&T Dissemination Platform will also be created, which will consist of development partners, Industry, CSIR, Universities and the other academic institutions.
A strong drive will be created within the CSIR towards the recognition of the service to society as a key function of the CSIR. In this regard, the priority research areas under this thematic area are:
- Policy and Governance
- Statistical, Social and Economic Research
- Culture, Indigenous Knowledge and Community Improvement
- Technology for Livelihood and Wealth Creation