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Opinions of Monday, 19 February 2018

Columnist: Oswald K. Azumah

Akufo-Addo's dream of eredicating filth, a take on Polythene

A memo to the Sanitation Minister...

“I will make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by the time my mandate expires” Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; President of the Republic of Ghana.

Well let me first begin by reiterating the words of one opposition communicator whose name I’ve forgotten, maybe for the sake of expedience, but he said …this is impossible because, you cannot prevent other countries from being cleaner than yours, what you can do is to make your level of cleanliness quintessential, just to paraphrase.

Well although other presidents may not have said what Nana Addo said in such clear terms, I can tell you with all conviction that they shared a similar vision, but well, if they had achieved that, Nana wouldn’t have needed to say that.

I can commend the works of Accra mayor on his tireless efforts to purge the city of filth-causing elements like our dear hawkers, who just want to make a few cedis at any cost and our vibrant Christian brethren who only seek to win a few souls and in the process decide to pollute the city.

Away from that sir, I want to whisper something to you, and I prefer to whisper because should this idea meet your fancy, thousands may, just may be pushed out of work. I don’t want anyone coming to tell me that my idea has made him jobless.

Mr. Minister, let’s talk about Polythene.

I’m not going to pretend to be a statistician neither will I pretend to have gone to the Sanitation Board [if it exists] but off the top of my head I can say 95% of the filth in the capital, Accra and by extension, Ghana is made of Polythene.

The amount of nuisance that polythene bags create is just unimaginable. All the noise we make against filth in Accra and beyond is actually a noise about polythene. I mean they are so ubiquitous that one would think no other option exist in terms of supply and disposal.

So from the hindsight, anyone can say get rid of polythene and 95% of the filth will be history.

Why do I decide to pick on polythene as if it’s the only push to our pull… well, first let me tell you that all Ghanaians find this conveyor medium easy to use and very affordable.

It is for this reason that maybe more than 100% Ghanaians including my very self would harbor reservations if you decide to outlaw them. What will I put my goods in when I go to Makola market or maybe if my money drop and I go to the mall? What about the handy ‘pure water’? I mean I can spend the rest of my life just listing?

Just in case my input is right, what would we convey our stuff in?

Dear Sir, I know, that you know about paper bags so I won’t pretend to educate you on them. But then the question how will we make sure these paper bags will not do the same thing the polythene does? Heap up at where we dispose them and breed the same diseases that we spend money to cure.

This sanitation issue is really a matter of self-discipline and not some laws that will out-job tax evaders, sorry I meant taxpayers.

If we ban polythene and replace them with paper bags which I should say are already in existence, will that prevent the average Ghanaian from dumping it on the street when they are done using it? NO.

So why argue for paper bags over polythene?

Well, available information tells us that polythene takes 100 years minimum to decay. 100 years sir, which means even if we are disposing of this convenient bags properly our landfills will one day say “I can’t take it anymore”. Unfortunately, we don’t even give the chance to the fills to say that, instead, we live in the filth and allow our gutters to be chocked and then breed diarrhoea, malaria cholera and their grandchildren. Then we spend our meagre ‘distin’ to cure them.

Paper sir according to my checks decays within 2 to 3 weeks. Which means if the notorious citizen says he will not dispose of his carrier well after use, these paper bags will decay in a month and we can dodge the pain that polythene leaves in our pocket. Water can trash paper into nothing within hours tops. But I am still yet to hear or read perhaps that someone used water to dissolve polythene.

Away from that comparison, I feel it expedient to my course if I say the ban on polythene have been effected in other parts of Africa and I wouldn’t say it hasn’t helped.

Rwanda, and recently I learnt Kenya have all outlawed polythene and though I haven’t visited those countries, I wouldn’t say they have regretted doing so.

When you tabulate the benefits of polythene to its dire effects, I should say, Mr. Minister, that it shouldn’t even be debated, get rid of them, that’s all.

It will meet vehement opposition, yes, and as I said earlier, I may join the opposition to such a bold and necessary decision but in the long term, just like the housefly which was kidnapped when it tried following the corpse to the grave, I’m sure we will come to appreciate it as well.

If President Akufo-Addo is serious about eradicating filth, then well…

It has been done elsewhere, I can be done here, and it must be done.