Britain accused over Ghana water project

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The Christian Aid charity accused the British Government yesterday of using the lure of a £10m aid package to open up Ghana's water industry to foreign investment.

The money is to be released once bids have been received for two contracts to supply water to most of urban Ghana. The Anglo-Dutch firm Cascal is among four overseas firms expected to bid for the right to supply 74 towns and cities.

Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, said the charity's claim was "completely false". The aid was part of a "responsible and equitable" response to Ghana's water problems.

Despite the need for huge investment in the water system, Christian Aid said feelings were running high against the public-private scheme and a day of protest was planned on 9 November in Ghana.

The charity said the cost of drinking water had already doubled in preparation for foreign involvement in the West African country, where almost half of the population has no regular and safe supply.

The British aid is part of a $500m (£350m) restructuring of the Ghanaian water industry, led by the World Bank. Christian Aid said the Ghanaian authorities had come under pressure to accept a scheme favoured by the World Bank, rather than what was best for the country – a claim dismissed by the World Bank as "an insult".