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10.02.2010 Opinions

Ghanaian`s contribution to Ghana`s insanitary environment

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Sanitation has been a big problem in the economic and health development of Ghana, despite the numerous campaigns, and the refusal of the people to make cleanliness a prime issue, even though they claim to be godly. It has contributed in the spread of diseases in recent years, but yet still, people have not thought it wise to have a change of attitude toward insanitary practices. Some of the attitudes Ghanaians practice in creating a bad sanitation environment are the habits of littering, indiscriminate defecation, and dumping of rubbish.

The difficulty of Ghanaians allowing modernity and education to change their attitude toward sanitation has made unclean environments a normal syndrome in their daily lives. It is no wonder that according to official statistics published by the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Platform, Ghana's sanitation coverage stood at 10 percent as at the end of 2006, hence, Ghana ranks number 48 in Africa, out of the 52 countries reported, and 14 out of the 15 countries in West Africa, beating only Niger to the last position.

According to the report, both local and international reports indicate that more than four million people in Ghana resort to defecating in bushes, drains and fields. The lack of effort of Ghanaians to inculcate the habit of making their environment clean, makes it extremely impossible for Ghana to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on sanitation.

Sanitation and indiscriminate defecation
Indiscriminate defecation is the biggest blow to the attainment of cleanliness in Ghana. People are fond of defecating in drains, bushes and fields. No region of the country can be left out. Open defecation is prevelant in all the ten regions of Ghana. However, according to the Ghana Statistical Service Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report for 2006, it was mostly widespread in the Upper East Region, with about 82 percent without any form of latrine, followed by the Upper West Region with about 79 percent, and then Northern Region with about 73.

In Accra open defection is common mostly on the road of Kanda, Ashaiman and on refuse dumping grounds. Many people in Ghana take advantage of any small portion of bushes or fields, and defecate there, irrespective of the houses and homes in that location. The health effect of this act is ignored every time, and the consequences left to come true. According to medical experts, human excreta contain 400 different species of bacteria and viruses. With the presence of these bacteria and viruses in the environment, surely there will be no doubt that foods and drinks would be contaminated. The end results of contaminated foods and drinks are usually associated with diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and diarrhoea.

The inaccessibility of toilet facilities has resulted in the open defecation nationwide. Town planners refuse to monitor the planning of towns and cities. This refusal gives builders the liberty of building haphazardly, not taking into consideration the construction of lavatories for tenants. For builders who make that initiative of making provision for lavatories, the mostly considered one is the pan latrine. According to the Ghana Statistical Service, about 180,000 people, representing about 0.8 percent of the population, still use the pan latrines in Ghana, despite the fact that it has been declared globally as unsafe and nationally illegal.

Sanitation and waste dumping
Dumping of rubbish indiscriminately is one of the extreme bad habits of Ghanaians toward cleanliness. It is very easy for people to create a dumping ground right beside their home or residence, due to lack of an official dumping ground, or to prevent them from walking a distance. Many gutters in the cities and towns are choked due to people making them dumping sites, some people deliberately, especially those who sell by the road side, sweep and dump their rubbish into nearby gutters. This always results in frequent flooding in many parts of Accra during the rainy season. Traders and street hawkers, who accumulate rubbish at the end of the day, dump their rubbish in nearby bushes, eventually making it a dumping site for all the traders, and even residents around.

Littering of the environment is an act almost every Ghanaian falls culprit to. The sachet water, which is meant to give Ghanaians a safe drinking water on the street, is gradually turning the whole city of Accra into a dumping ground. Moreover, the black polythene bag used for selling, popularly known as the “take away,” also accounts for the immense nature of litter on the environment. It has become the habit of many people to litter the environment with these rubber sachets and black polythene bags when they are through with its purpose. Irrespective of where they are, they litter the environment even when they are in buses, instead of leaving them in the buses for e drivers to clear them after work. The nature of littering the street is evident when wind blows, as these polythene bags will be flying in the air, with one not knowing where they are coming from.

Activities to help keep a clean environment
It is a good thing that some recycling companies in the country make use of these polythene products littering the streets. Many people, both young and old, as a source of income, pick some of these polythene sachets from the street to be recycled. The activity of these people, even though not a sole remedy to preventing littering of the environment, in a way, helps to reduce the number of these plastics on the streets. Even though the presence of the Zoomlion Ghana Limited, a waste management company, has brought a sense of sanitation awareness for the environment however, it has not brought any sort of sensitisation to the individual sanitation attitude of Ghanaians. The activity of Zoomlion has reduced, to some extent, the rate of dumping of rubbish by individuals into drains, gutters and nearby bushes.

The workers of the company try their best to attend to their daily duties of sweeping some of the major and minor streets of the country. It as well provides dust bins for companies, school, churches and other organisations, to prevent them from dumping rubbish openly on the environment. Day in and day out, they make it a point a bring awareness about the benefits of a clean environment to the public, through the media, and numerous campaigns.

A clean environment is the responsibility of every Ghanaian, as everyone is a direct beneficiary of its consequences. The development of the country is slowed down when people do not make it a point to observe good sanitation habits. A dirty environment brings the possibility of an outbreak of an epidemic, which in the long run the government has to spend huge amount of money to get rid of.

It must be put in mind that the spending of this money on epidemics could have been used for a developmental project which would benefit the nation, if the environment was kept clean. Some years ago, the refusal of people to take into consideration good sanitation practices resulted in high sanitation-related diseases in the Upper West Region of the country. This resulted into the government spending about GH¢8,681,468 in the provision of medical treatment.

One sure way of bringing good sanitation of the environment is through education and awareness creation, which have still not been effective. People do not give respect to the laws on environmental cleanliness, due to lack of its enforcement.

This has given people the chance to dump solid and liquid waste, at their convenience, anywhere they please. The lack of enforcement of the law has made the power of the law dormant, making the existence of the law irrelevant. If the people are refusing to realise the benefit of a clean environment, then it is the duty of the law makers to implement the law to save the environment and the people in it.

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