The increasing presence of piles of garbage (bola) along streets, roads, and market squares in and around the Capital Cities in particular, and the nation in general present a great threat to human health and the environment.
The irony is that there are available technologies to manage waste to reduce the potential impact. Metropolitan, District and Municipal solid waste can be treated sustainably by maximizing the value from it as a resource of materials and energy while minimizing the visual and environmental impact.
Let’s protect this environment for it is the only one available and I personally call on Sanitation Minister to collaborate with Local Government Minister and Traditional Rulers to show national leadership on this matter, as they have demonstrated on other issues of great national importance.
Most aspects of our lives are linked to the environment. The quality of the air we breathe, the safety of our food and drinking water, the land we live and work on, and the manner on which we spend our recreational time outdoors- hinge on the condition of the environment. For our families, we want the healthiest environment possible.
The development and implementation of sound environmental policy to protect Ghanaians and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development are very important to all Ghanaian citizens. That is even more reason why the environmental protection agency in Ghana must have the goal of clean air, clean water, and safe management of wastes generated in the nation as part of their environmental responsibilities. It must be emphasized that any financial resources dedicated to environmental issues should not be looked at as an expense but rather as an investment in the health, safety, and welfare of Ghanaians.
To this end, I am proposing comprehensive management of metropolitan, municipal, and district solid waste generated in Ghana. Adequate and effective management of metropolitan, municipal, and district solid and liquid waste is very necessary for sustainable economic development and healthy living in this country. While there are serious concerns about metropolitan, municipal, and district solid waste management in the country, I must mention the nation’s leadership for the efforts made so far towards environmental protection. My suggestion or proposal is offered only as a supplement to the managers of our country on-going effort towards this problem.
The question then is what metropolitan, municipal is, and district solid waste and why is it important to manage it effectively? metropolitan, municipal and district solid waste is a subset of solid waste and is defined as a solid waste resulting from or incidental to municipal, community, commercial, institutional, and recreational activities, including garbage, rubbish, ashes, and street-cleaning debris, dead animals, abandoned automobiles, and any other solid waste other than industrial solid waste (US EPA, 1996). Let us look at why municipal solid waste management is very important and necessary at this time than in the past.
The fact that Ghana is home to abundant human and natural resources has proved to be a blessing and responsibility. These abundant resources make Ghana a desirable place to live and work especially in its major urban centers such as Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, etc… to name just a few. This has prompted tremendous growth in the nation.
In addition, with such growth comes a host of waste generation, disposal, and management issues especially municipal solid wastes that must be addressed to protect the public health and the environment due to increased urban growth. For instance, more people mean more residential and commercial development, which inevitably results in more municipal solid waste generation.
If the increased metropolitan, municipal, and district solid waste are not properly managed, the citizens of Ghana would be in danger of being exposed to infectious diseases resulting from decomposed municipal waste scattered all over shopping centers, market squares, and roadways.
Remember that wastes that are mismanaged can enter the ecosystem, potentially damaging the quality of land, water, and air. When the environment is contaminated, the harmful effects could affect human health as well as the health of plants and wildlife, which in most cases are sources of our food and nutrition. The state, therefore, needs to address the increasing volume of municipal solid waste that is generated on a daily basis in the state by constructing landfills.
The landfill may not be the only solution to the municipal solid waste problem, but it is the permanent solution. It must be emphasized however, that effective municipal solid waste solutions are the combination of the landfill, recycling, reuses, and reduction. Each of these solid waste management alternatives is important but for now, I am concentrating on landfills.
This write-up may have focused on waste management in Accra, but the ubiquity of garbage/trash is a national problem that deserves national attention and solution. In fact, the national government should be at the forefront of this issue that represents health, economic, and aesthetic challenges to the nation. To this end, I urge our Lawmakers to establish the framework for national action that will involve a strong legislative mandate with its associated regulatory guidelines and meaningful enforcement mechanism. The Deputy President of Ghana in his or her own right should take up this challenge at the national level. Late Deputy Aliu has demonstrated in the past his desire and willingness to tackle common national problems and challenges and I believe the dead will rise to the occasion again to confront this challenge if given the opportunity to do so. I strongly believe that Vice President in conjunction with Traditional rulers will be able to nationalize this issue so that it can attract national attention. Consequently, national rules and regulations should be written on waste disposal.
Remember that landfill is not a dump but rather an engineered facility. There are many benefits of landfill facilities for any government and its people. Below are some of the selected benefits:
Healthy Environment and Healthy People. The goal of any landfill is to accept tons of wastes generated by the community including private citizens, businesses, and governmental facilities. By providing efficient and effective waste disposal, landfills ultimately protect human health and the environment. A healthy environment supports a healthy community. A healthy community generates a healthy workforce. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce that is not only good for attracting new businesses but also encourages the retention of existing ones. With reduced environmental health-related problems, the state can concentrate its resources on other health issues.
Apart from the health and environmental impact of landfills, the most direct beneficial effect of the landfill is increased employment in the nation. The construction phase of a landfill is estimated to generate more than 1000 new jobs within the locality. This is also in addition to indirect jobs due to subcontracting and supplies. With an increased employment opportunity, there is a proportional decrease in unemployed thus reducing social services cost to the state. The operational phase of a landfill would also add more permanent jobs to the state.
Reuse & Recycle
Some of the wastes sent to the landfill such as concrete, asphalt, brush, old tires, glass, plastics, and metals can be diverted, crushed, and reused. For instance, crushed concrete and asphalt can be used for new road construction; metals and plastics, used batteries, and glass can be sold as scrap to recycling outfits either locally or exported for cash. In addition, other states may be utilizing landfill for their waste management and that could be another source of revenue for the state.
A landfill operation buttressed by regulatory enforcement encourages attitudinal changes among the citizenry. This is because; suddenly, it will no longer be cool to be careless with trash and waste. The net effect is a community that is conscious of their attitude which ultimately leads to a clean, healthy, and safe environment.
Fellow Ghanaians, doing good is always better than feeling good. Let me also urge all of us to do good but do not ask for whom. Finally, be skeptical of those who promise to do well and end up doing well for themselves.
Email: [email protected]
The author is a Journalism student, Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra. The views expressed in this article are entirely that of the author. They do not represent any organization or institution.