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Land use dynamics, urban transformation and the complexity of surface water pollution: identifying risks and developing integrated solutions to water-borne disease in Accra, Ghana

IWRA 2021 Online Conference One Water, One Health
Theme 3: What opportunities lie in the improved cooperation between water, food, and public health sectors?
Author(s): Mr. Joshua Ntajal (main author), Dr. Timo Falkenberg, Prof. Thomas Kistemann, Prof. Mariele Evers

Mr. Joshua Ntajal (main author)1, Dr. Timo Falkenberg2, Prof. Thomas Kistemann3, Prof. Mariele Evers1

1. Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Germany
2. Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany
3. GeoHealth Centre, Institute for Hygiene and Public Health, University of Bonn, Germany

Keyword(s): urban land use; water quality; water-borne disease, stakeholder collaboration, system modeling


Our research study identified the driving forces of land use dynamics and urban transformation, their influences on the pollution of surface water, and the underlying risk of water-borne diseases to support cross-sectoral collaborations for the development of integrated solutions. Our study focused on the Odaw River catchment, a small urban river system within Accra, which is the hotspot for flooding and infectious diseases. Water is
essential for the survival of humans and the functioning of ecosystems, however, it can become a vehicle for disease transmission, when polluted. Most major cities in Ghana particularly, Accra and its peri-urban areas, have experienced huge spatial transformations, over the past 30 years. However, land use planning, clean water, and sanitation infrastructure are poorly developed. Water-borne diseases are major health challenges, which account for nearly 20% of the annual reported cases of infectious diseases in Accra. Reports of uncoordinated and fragmented efforts to develop solutions for the prevention and control of water-borne diseases have often failed. This calls for the development of transdisciplinary and coordinated response strategies to break the cross-sectoral and behavioral barriers and facilitate the development of integrated and innovative solutions. The study adopted a mixed-method approach, including the integration of driving forces, pressure, state, impacts and response framework, and qualitative system dynamics modeling approach. The fieldwork and data collection activities were based on multi-level stakeholder participation, using focus group discussions in four communities within the Odaw River catchment in Accra, a cross-sectional survey of 320 households, and two stakeholder workshops for the identification of indicators, multi-sectoral interactions, system modeling, and weighting of significant indicators for further quantification and analysis. The preliminary results of the system dynamic modeling revealed complex interactions among land use, urban transformation, water pollution pathways, and the risk of water-borne diseases. Further, the outcome of the model highlighted the significant indicators
including poor land use planning, lack of improved wastes management system, governance issues, behavioral and inadequate WASH, which require an aggressive intervention, through cross-sectoral stakeholder collaborations to develop innovative solutions to protect urban surface water systems and promote human and environmental health in Accra, Ghana. The trans-multidisciplinary nature of our study made it policy and goal-oriented, targeted at breaking the barriers hindering addressing of complex and wicked problems, and contribute towards improving multi-sectoral cooperation and coordinated evidence-based decision-making among water, food, and public health sectors within the selected conference theme (3).

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