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Opinions of Sunday, 15 March 2015

Columnist: Amponsem, Joshua

GIS can solve Ghana's waste management problems

Waste in the context of its management is defined from household's refusals, non-hazardous and hazardous wastes; both liquid and solid. (GAIA, 2003). However, all these types of waste are a problem worldwide. Specially, in developing countries, waste management is becoming an acute problem for our urbanization and economic development.

Large volumes of waste are produced day in and day out but our quest to manage these waste efficiently and reduce pollution, disease outbreaks and utilization of "waste resource" has been a challenge. Indiscriminate dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes, improper disposal and many other anthropogenic reasons, particularly, attitude of most people towards waste handling, disposal and management has led to this big challenge that seems to be unsolvable.

In order to deal with this great problem on proper waste management and efficiency, Geographic Information System (GIS) technology solutions such as Remote sensing- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), Geocoding, and Global Positioning System (GPS) must be utilized. Waste monitoring and management need accurate information to make good decision. To stimulate all these facilities, an effective and robust system is needed. RFID is a generic system that is designed to enable readers to capture data on tags and transmit it to a computer system without any physical connection. The auto-ID technologies have been used to reduce the amount of time and labour needed to input data manually and to improve data. RFID tags can be placed on waste management trucks and bins to provide information on the bins and trucks for real time monitoring. GPS, another basic locator system, is extensively is used in motor vehicle for providing road side assistance, determining the vehicle's position on an electronic map display, helping drivers to keep track of their position and give turn-by-turn directions to designated locations. Geocoding offers coding of locations - providing exact coordinates for locations, using location attributes like, region name, street name, and house number – this can be adopted to provide exact coordinates for all houses subscribed for waste collection and assist companies in easy identification. CCTV another modern tool also offers live stream video of real time activities via camera which is connected to a computer for monitoring. These tools and devices are necessary in present waste management. It offers transparency and easily provides data to assist in rightful judgement in work efficiency.

With this technology, waste will be picked up on time, bin locations and driver's route to bins will be simpler- via GPS and RFID. Trucks will not have to check on empty dustbins and waste fuel, energy and resources. This technology provides a live feed which serves as a watchdog to community inhabitants who dispose improperly or disobey environmental laws. Culprits can then be educated and be made to pay a fine that could be used to develop the community or waste management firms. GIS will also provide updated digital maps of the location of waste bins and their capacity, timetables indicating the routes and times for waste collection, calculation of contractor payment, statistics on the weight of waste produced, management of civilian complaints and transparency in administration.

Waste management - segregation and recycling has been and is still a major problem for most development and some developed countries. The integration of GIS technology into waste management is one of the possible ways of solving this problem. GIS tools like GPS, Geocoding, RFID, etc. provides and process spatial and waste management data which makes it easier to track performance of any design to evaluate its efficiency. This GIS offers a design that is relatively cheaper, economical, and efficient, ensures proper handling of waste and probably the best way of tracking whether environmental rules and regulations are obeyed by communities.

Joshua Amponsem.