Sanitation in Ghana leaves much to be desired, with this high indulgence in the habit of littering everywhere. Opened drains, choked gutters, open defecation, highly over flowing waste bins with plastic bags flying all over etc. have led to flooding, cholera outbreaks, and even death with the slightest rainfall. So as a nation, where have we gone wrong? Is it that we don’t care about our health and human life, or we were born with the attitude of living in dirt? I don’t believe so.
Yes, one can say that some little changes have been effected in the issue of sanitation in recent years. But with yearly budget allocations for the sanitation Ministry, much more is expected from them. Its seem as a nation we have been going round the same issues without any progress.
“I will make the capital city (Accra) the cleanest city in Africa” was the pledge made by the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo during his visit to the people of James Town in Accra on 24th April, 2017. With two years down the line, yet nothing much has been done, whiles lives are lost and properties destroyed in the recent rainfalls in the capital.
The president also added that “the beauty of the national capital had deteriorated over the years as a result of various human activities”. So, what are the various human activities? Are those human activities banned or rebuked?
Almost every government in one way or the other have made various promises on sanitation but yet little has been done. I believe the days and times of pleasant speeches are over, action must be taken and seen!
In the year 2017, Kenya was lauded for imposing a ban on plastic bags with as much as four years’ jail term or pay a huge fine. Many nations around the world are banning plastic bags including Gabon, Senegal, Rwanda, France and Italy, imposing high restrictions and taxes on the use of plastic bags. And the zero tolerance policy towards plastic bags appears to pay off, as streets in the capitals and elsewhere across Kenya are spotless. Rwanda in recent times is probably Africa’s cleanest nation. (The New York Times)
Years back, Ghana used to boost of healthy medicinal cleaned leaves used to serve ‘waakye’, one of Ghana’s delicious delicacies of cooked beans and rice. Hardly would one come across plastic bags. Many people were happy been served in their own plates they carry. Paper bags were used to serve items from various stores and supermarkets.
But modernization and so called civilization had led to the use of plastic bags which has brought great destruction than good, with lots of money wasted in collection and recycling.
Plastics belong to the polymer family and consists of a chain of molecules containing repeated units of carbon atoms. They’re not easily breakdown because of the inbuilt molecular strength.
Polythene, the most commonly used plastic, was created accidently at a chemical plant in Northwich, England in 1933 and was initially used in secrete by the British Military during world war II. It has now become a global product with one million plastic bags consumed every minute, and one trillion produce a year. (UNenvironment.org)
Plastic bags takes about hundred years to degrade, and it end up clogging our gutters during rainfalls, polluting our waters and the sea thereby killing marine life, blocking plants nutrients when imbedded in the soil etc. and our once beautiful beaches are now polluted with various plastics, making the beaches unattractive and disgusting.
According to the country’s environmental Agency, about 2.58 million metric tons of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually, of which 73 percent ends up as waste, while only 19 percent is re-used. Fishermen always have more plastics than fish in their trawls. This means all plastics imported end up polluting the environment.
In Ghana, plastic bags are used by everybody. From the ‘koko’ vendor to a designer store. Every food item bought is first wrapped in a single plastic and then finally wrapped again in bigger plastic carrier. So if Cape coast has an assumed population of 1.5 million, just calculate how much plastic waste is generated and then work it across the whole country and you will marvel how much plastic waste is accumulated a day in the country.
The bad manner in which plastics are discarded is also a big problem, as some people use black polythene bags as faecal or waste bins and later throw them into the water bodies, gutters and bushes, known locally as ‘flying toilets’ in some parts of Accra.
For me, there hasn’t been any other material that has and is still causing great destruction to our environment and human life than plastics.
Apart from the polythene bags polluting our environment and flying around and littering our cities and towns, it can also cause cancer (stomach cancer) when hot foods are packaged in them. (Ghana food and drugs Authority, August, 2012).
According to research, the plastics contain polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene which are very dangerous to our health. Burning of plastics produce dioxins which is also very harmful to our health.
With all these negative alarming effects of plastics, why should we allow this ‘accidently’ produced product to destroy us and our beautiful environment. Although, some companies use the polythene to manufacture pavement blocks and other useful items, yet its negative uses and control by the masses outweighs the benefits.
So, to our leaders, for the health of the people and for the believe in making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, kindly consider it necessary to tackle or ban the use of plastics in the country. The effects of plastics on our poor sanitation is so huge that, dealing with plastics will make it easy achieving the goal.
In conclusion, we can learn from other African countries who have done it and have achieved good results. Like the Kenyans and Rwandese, just to mention a few, who by strong political will have decided to change their destinies.
If we can properly tackle or ban the usage of polythene, it will go a long way to improve on our sanitation situation in the country.
It will not be easy though, but with good plans and strong political will, our beautiful country can take back her glory.
By: Daniel Dadzie
A Physician Assistant student(BSc.)
University of Cape Coast.