Feature Article of Friday, 3 July 2009
Columnist: Ellimah, Michael A. K.
Michael A.K Ellimah, Movement for Social Change and Development-MOSCAD
“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” John F. Kennedy
On 19th June, 2009, Kaneshie and some parts of Accra experienced torrential rains which unexpectedly resulted in the loss of lives and properties. Even though, residents in Accra and its environs are not aliens to the concomitance of the raining season particularly, in areas such as Alajo, Caprice and many parts of Accra, nothing pragmatic and practical seem to be done about the situation to forestall future incidents of these nature. Over the years reactive measures have been taken to address the issues of poor sanitation practices. Indeed, the intervention of Zoom Lion has to some extent recued the nation from the drowning and swallowing mouth of filth. The knee-jerk approach the nation has always adopted to address the challenges of sanitation can not be countenanced considering the high cost the nation incurs as a result of poor sanitation related disasters. The nation’s failing efforts in answering the questions of insanitary conditions is worrying and needs a collective energy in providing solutions to the situation before we are overwhelmed in despair. In arresting the situation we must not be oblivious of the ‘evils’ of the poor sanitary conditions ranging from poor waste management practices, sheer irresponsibility, attitudes of indifference and apathy, indiscipline, politicization of every issue including decongestion exercises.
In Ghana today, the issue of decongestion and sanitation has unfortunately been clothed in political colours. Depending on which sides of the political divide one stands, the issue of decongestion and waste management is politically motivated either to punish or reward party followers. The issue has become so touchy and has often been a political tool needed either to remain in power or as a route to political power. The situation has unfortunately developed a strong political muscular strength threatening to enervate efforts of the government of the day to take practical measures in alleviating the problems for fear of incurring the wrath of the thumb of the electorate in future elections. One will not be wrong to sympathize with the government of the day for its gradualist approach in addressing the issue because political opponents would not rest at anything to reap huge political capital from every action or inaction of government in handling the issue of decongestion and its accompanying sanitation predicaments. Ironically, the devastating effects of disasters such as what the nation confronted some weeks ago in Kaneshie and its environs know neither political colours nor party followers. Until every Ghanaian appreciates the urgent need for the involvement of all in a common struggle in surviving together against filth, we shall all die together from filth. Over the years we have been inundated with both theory and plans on the drawing board to deal with the evils of sanitation that confronts all of us, it is now time to transfer such plans to the construction site of action. In attempting to take strokes to address the sanitation challenges bedeviling the nation, we must first understand how and the types of waste generated in the country.
Sanitation is understood basically to mean the maintenance of public health and hygiene especially the water supply and waste disposal system. The challenge of realizing the basics of this definition have emerged from the increasing use of disposable materials and excessive packagings, all contributing to an increase in the amount of waste created. The problems associated with solid and liquid waste management are complex because of the quantity and diversity of the nature of waste generated. Domestic and commercial wastes ranging from appliances, newspapers, clothing, disposable tableware, food packaging, cans, bottles, plastics, polythene bags have always been the bane of our sanitation practice. These sources of waste has become a bane to our economy and our national life owing to the fact that there are no proper waste collection systems, waste is dumped on the streets indiscriminately, and the deliberate attempts of ignoring the relationship between ways of disposing off waste and the resulting environmental and public health problems. The issue of waste management is not beyond us as a people and therefore must confront it with a combination of waste management practices with seriousness.
Firstly, most materials that are thrown away can be processed and made into new products. Glass, paper, metal and organic waste can all be recycled. The advantages associated with recycling cannot be over emphasized and must be vigorously explored. It reduces the amount of solid and liquid waste that is thrown away thereby reducing the over dependence on our natural resources. Recycling also provide employment opportunities for people who collect the materials and those who recycle them. Many people in Ghana can make a living through recycling. This is very evident in the increasing number of scrap metal dealers in our cities.
Again, we are confronted with the challenge of reducing the amount of waste produced and this will make easier the other integrated methods of managing waste. Not only will the method of reduction help in reducing the amount of waste generated, it will enhance the nation’s efforts in managing carefully our natural resources. Reduction therefore, must be the responsibility of all where manufacturers make conscious efforts to create products that use less packaging and contain fewer toxins or waste while consumers buy products that are packaged in more durable, non-disposable containers which can be reused. A deliberate programme to encourage the reuse of products must be put in place to check the spate of waste generated. We all need to change the system we live in today to move away from disposable items and unnecessary packaging. This means that we must pause to ask ourselves some few important questions; what is making the bulk of most of our waste and where is it coming from? Why should the management of common types of wastes such as plastic bags, bottles and tin cans be the sole responsibility of the consumer? Does the manufacturer have a responsibility too? Manufacturers must therefore be put under pressure by consumers to be involved in the management of waste. Another challenge that we all must embrace is to offer our institutions mandated to enforce the by-laws on sanitation the needed support. One of the giant steps we can take to boldly deal with the situation is the fair application of the punitive measures against people whose activities endangers the nation’s efforts in dealing with the problem of sanitation. In conclusion, it is very much necessary that we all recognize that sanitation is a common challenge therefore the hands of all of us on the wheel in rolling away the evils of sanitation is the solution we need.
The writer is the Leader and Spokesperson for
Movement of Social Change and Development-MOSCAD
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org