Some parts of the capital city, Accra, are inundated with solid waste in volumes that pose dire health risks to members of the public and threaten the quality of the environment.
While several tonnes of waste are generated daily in homes and business enclaves, there is inefficient waste management value chain to keep the city clean.
For almost a year now, the Daily Graphic has observed that popular markets and business centres such as Agbogbloshie, London Market at James Town, Abossey Okai, CMB, Mallam Atta, Kaneshie and Nima are engulfed in filth, posing health risks to traders and shoppers.
In these markets, flies compete with traders for vegetables, meat, fish and other foodstuffs.
At the Agbogbloshie Market, for instance, gutters that are heavily pregnant with all manner of waste emit offensive odour that pollutes the air.
Apart from the markets, several heaps of refuse are dotted along the shoulders of major roads and streets while the underpass of some overpasses have become safe havens for mountains of refuse.
For instance, the Graphic Road, the Kaneshie-Odorkor stretch of the Dr Busia Highway and the Abossey Okai-Agbogbloshie roads have virtually been turned into unsightly refuse dumps.
From August to December, this year, the Daily Graphic counted at least 14 heaps of refuse between Kaneshie First Light and the Graphic Communications Group Ltd (GCGL) head office almost on a daily basis.
These piles of refuse, which remain uncollected for many days, impede the free movement of vehicles and road users.
The stench emanating from the refuse also polluted the air and exposed members of the public to sanitation-related diseases.
Even worse, slum communities such as Old Fadama, Nima, Zongo, Ashaiman and Chorkor are suffocating from piles of waste that are left unattended to.
In some cases, stray animals feed on the piles of refuse, posing further nuisance to members of the public.
A chunk of these wastes, especially plastics, end up in drains, the Odaw River and the sea.
Some members of the public the Daily Graphic spoke to, bemoaned the sorry state of waste in the capital city, describing it as a blot on the country’s conscience.
Anthony Owusu, a student at the University of Ghana, described the piles of waste that were left uncollected on the shoulders of roads as a nuisance that must be dealt with, as a matter of priority.
The 27-year-old native of Mankessim in the Central Region said apart from the stench that emanated from the waste matter, it was a source of discomfort to passengers. “Sometimes, when you get to Kaneshie, where we are now, you cannot even alight from the vehicle.
If you are not very careful, you will step into piles of refuse that will soil your trousers and shoes,” he said.
Charles Otu, a driver who plies the Odorkor-Accra route, said the piles of refuse that were left uncollected along the stretch contributed to the traffic jam along that stretch.
This development is worrying because, according to an environmental health expert, Dr Carl Stephen Osei, when solid waste is generated and it is not properly collected, stored and disposed, it can cause a lot of diseases.
He said when solid waste was exposed, flies, rodents and other pest fed on it and spread disease causing organisms.
“Flies spread bacteria that causes diarrhoeal related diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid while rodents serve as a reservoir for a lot of disease-causing agents, especially bacteria and viruses,” he said.
Cleanest city agenda
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made the declaration to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa on April 23, 2017, when the President of the Ngleshie Alata Traditional Council, Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V, together with the chiefs and people of Jamestown, enstooled him as the Chief of Jamestown, with the stool name “Nii Kwaku Ablade Okogyeaman.”
“The commitment I want to make, and for all of us to make, is that by the end of my term in office, Accra will be the cleanest city on the entire African continent.
That is the commitment I am making to you,” he said.
On November 5, 2019, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, also announced that the government had initiated the process towards the establishment of a National Sanitation Authority and a National Sanitation Fund to address the country’s sanitation and water challenges.
Dr Bawumia had indicated that the government was convinced that the establishment of the authority and the fund would be “a game changer” in the national water and sanitation management effort.
As part of Accra’s cleanest city agenda, the government launched the “Operation Clean Your Frontage” in October 2021.
Walking the talk
Four years down the line, the sanitation authority and fund are yet to be established, development stakeholders in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector have described the situation as unfortunate.
In recent interviews with the Daily Graphic, the National Coordinator of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project (GAMA-SWP), George Asiedu, and the Executive Secretary of the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), Basilia Nanbigne, called on the government to establish the two entities as a matter of necessity.
In their view, the authority would ensure proper implementation of policies and interventions to deal with waste and help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 of the United Nations (UN).
Mr Asiedu said the sanitation authority would serve as a regulator of the WASH sector and also fill the void between policymaking and the delivery of sanitation services by the private sector.
“We must have an intermediary, which is the regulatory framework, where a statutory body will be charged with the responsibility to monitor, control and evaluate the performance of the private sector,” he said.
Ms Nanbigne said the establishment of the sanitation authority was the surest way of building a robust WASH sector and ridding the country of filth.
“There is no time to waste on this matter; the sanitation authority needs to be set up as soon as possible.
In fact, we need it like yesterday,” she added.
A research scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Institute of Industrial Research, Dr Boniface Yeboah Antwi, said one of the best ways to keep the city clean was to build a robust infrastructure for the management of plastic waste.
He observed that the thousands of tonnes of plastic waste that ended up in drains and caused flooding could be turned into valuable resources through recycling.