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Opinions of Thursday, 25 June 2009

Columnist: Asare, Emmanuel

Any Way Out Of Our Waste Management Crises?

Poor management of solid waste – the unwholesome disposal or discharge of normally solid or semisolid materials, resulting from human activities into the environment- is without a scintilla of doubt a major challenge urban centers in Ghana are yet to confront. Indeed, like active volcanoes raging in the pacific ring of fire solid waste problems, every now and then rears its unpleasant head at us.

In the quest for sustainable waste management strategies, through the years, the concept of managing waste has invariably revolved around the idea of collecting refuse from the various waste generating points to landfill sites. And even here, Metropolitan Assemblies (notably AMA, KMA) are sweating profusely to keep an even keel on the situation. The result and fallouts which are many and varied of course are chronicled in the flood tide of garbage and rubbish that Central Business Districts and suburbs in the country are mired in.

It therefore came as heartwarming, reading that Mr. Samuel Sarpong, Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer of the Kumasi metropolitan assembly (KMA) intends, during his administration, to take his “jurisdiction” on the path of sustainable waste management practices (Daily graphic, 2 May 2009 page 18). Truth is, not only would such a “walked” pledge make the residents of the garden city breath a heavy sigh of relief, it certainly would firm up the cities ranking as a major tourist destination in the country.

In line with this, we would want to see in the intent of the new KMA boss to seeking for a public private partnership in resolving solid waste problems the following: first, a clear scheme laid out for the payment of Private Waste Contractors (PWC). It is not the case that in the past there has not being such collaborations and arrangements between PWC and the Assembly, there has, but point is that, the situation where metropolitan authorities neglect to honour their obligation by way of payments in respect of work done by private waste companies, almost invariably brought a sour working relations between the two. If there is now a shift in thinking and strategy, I would urge for a mechanism which ensures that Waste Contractors who duly and dutifully carry out waste management services do not undergo any hassle in getting paid.

Second, in the quest for better sanitation in the metropolis, the new Assembly might want to consider providing for solid infrastructure at the cities own waste management directorate. I take the perspective that, in light of the “light” institutional strength of the waste management department (WMD) in Kumasi, it would be imperative for the department to be strengthened. Here one mean to say adequate technical brains – persons with in-depth training in Engineering and Management playing mainstream roles in the affairs of the department. (Currently less of such people are in place there) Such a development no doubt could forestall the inefficiencies and maladministration characterizing the daily management of waste in the metropolis.

Again, seeking quality solutions to the poor state of sanitation in the city would also require that quasi decentralize bodies such as sub-metros are emboldened (human and material) to take up the task of managing waste. And as this no doubt would be of relief for the Assembly we would want to see it go the full hog. The prevailing arrangement where sub-metros in Kumasi have being reduced to revenue collectors does not at all cut for total waste management solutions!

Thing is, the “load” at the centre (KMA and indeed all Metropolitan Assemblies) which necessitated the setting up of sub-metros should be given meaning. And this should be seen manifesting not only in revenue collection and other ancillary matters, it should be conspicuous in waste management as well. As has being argued elsewhere, these are bodies directly in touch with the basic fabric of society, and so if anything at all, they are in a position to carefully monitor waste generation trends, which arguably, put them in a position to put in a system of waste collection arrangement which might be suitable and sustainable.

It should be noted that directing and always defining participation for such decentralized bodies has only achieve limited involvement of the masses in local governance; not only that, it has also stalled the progress of development in our cities. Peter Ohene Kyei-PhD- (Rector, Pentecost University College), put it better, he notes, such arrangement “does not move such local bodies into the realm of empowerment”. The intent of decentralization also include but the building of capacity of local bodies – ingesting in them problem solving, planning, and facilitation skill-to encourage participation in the governance of our assemblies.

Clearly the new boss of Kumasi has a plate full of issues to deal with, including the poor state of waste management and sanitation in the city. We trust he live up to the challenge. We wish him well in his Endeavours.

Emmanuel Asare KS 14784 Kumasi

The author is the Coordinator for the “Environment Camp” (ENCA) Email;