A GNA Feature by Muniratu Akweley Issah
Accra, Feb. 20, GNA - Outrageous but factually, the war against filth in Accra is causing the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) 18 billion cedis, a month although the Assembly receives only eight billion cedis annually from the District Assemblies' Common Fund. Ninety (90) per cent of cases reported daily at the Out-Patient Department of the country's hospitals are also due to environmental problems.
Mr Charles Bintin, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development disclosed these cold figures at a two-day workshop organised by the World Bank assisted Inter-Faith Waste Management Initiative in Accra.
According to Mr Stanley Adjiri-Blankson, Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive, nearly two billion cedis was spent on the recent massive clean-up exercise in Accra, which was organised by AMA. The amount was used to purchase logistics, which included 1,000 wheelbarrows; 2,000 pairs of rubber gloves; 2,000 pairs of Wellington boots; 1,500 forks; 1,500 shovels; 1,500 rakes and the hiring of 136 tipper trucks for the exercise.
All the facts and figures point to the fact that unsanitary conditions in Ghana are not only becoming very expensive but also creating serious health problems.
Almost all litterbins in the city are overfull, emitting bad scent while stagnant water in discarded cans breed mosquitoes. The gutters are choked; the sandy beaches are filled with plastic waste, the lagoons are dead while every bushy or obscure area in the country has been transformed into a huge toilet facility.
Filth is destroying the Tourism Sector and a becoming a huge national disgrace. Fortunately this has attracted the attention of the Ministry of Tourism and the Modernisation of the Capital City and the ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
The choking effect of filth on the national conscience has compelled Vice President Aliu Mahama to express concern about the Media's contribution to the fight against the social canker.
The Vice President accused the Media of abandoning their social and development mandate including the tackling of the waste menace and rather focussing more on political reporting.
He said: "High rise refuse dumps, littered streets, choked gutters, stagnant waters and indiscriminate defecation in public and open spaces have become common place features in our cities.
"I want to re-emphasise that as a people, we seem unable to come to terms with the responsibility that living and working in a formal governance environment demands."
He appealed to the media to create more public awareness about the need for people to keep their surroundings clean.
Vice President Mahama commended the initiative by the Ghana Education Service and the National Commission on Civic Education for revitalising the curriculum on civic education to facilitate attitudinal change among students to help to solve the problem.
Alhaji Mahama, who took part in the massive cleanup in Accra, called on Ghanaians to take environmental sanitation more seriously to improve their health in order to reduce the huge Government spending on drug importation.
He said Ghanaians must appreciate sanitation as a major health problem that was destroying the country.
He said until Accra became clean, Ghana would not be able to attract the expected high numbers of tourists.
Vice President Mahama suggested to the Ministry of Education and Sports to make it a policy for school children and students to undertake weekly cleanups in the communities.
It was reassuring for Mr Blankson to indicate that AMA was targeting opinion leaders to help to sensitise the general public on the need for cleanliness.
"Nobody is going to be pampered anymore and if it means prosecuting people to achieve results, so be it", he said.
He said the Assembly would work closely with the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) and other related bodies to penalise commercial vehicle drivers, who flouted the regulation on good sanitation. Mr Blankson said the AMA had been rejuvenated to enforce byelaws on sanitation without fear or favour.
Dr Gheysika Agambilla, Deputy Minister of Environment and Science, had also given a religious flavour to the need for cleanliness by amending the 10 Commandments in the Bible to 11 to read: "Thou shall not litter".
The Reverend Dr Paul Fynn, Chairman of the Christian Council of Ghana was more uncomplimentary about Government about the unsanitary conditions in Ghana.
Speaking on behalf of the Inter-Faith Waste Management Initiative, he said the inability of Central Government and the local authorities to institute proper waste management systems was due to the fear of losing votes and this had resulted in deteriorating sanitary conditions leading to the outbreak of diseases.
This he said was undermining Government's drive towards poverty alleviation and the national tourism drive.
Mr Affail Monney, Deputy General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists Association, called on the Media to tailor their programmes, news and interviews to galvanise the people to keep their surroundings clean and to dispose their waste in an appropriate manner.
"The Media must sharpen their advocacy tools and tap their immeasurable influence in the policy landscape to get Central Government as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to address the issue", he said.
Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyenhene and Chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency Board, had called for a revolution of values and ideas to shape the right attitudes towards environmental sanitation.
There is the compelling need for Ghanaians to change their attitudes towards the management of filth by embarking on daily tidying up of the environment.
After all that is the surest way of saving the lives of Ghanaians, who die needlessly each year from malaria and other preventable communicable diseases.
The massive clean-up exercise in Accra must not only be an annual ritual but must be replicated in the nine other regions and districts.
Law enforcement on sanitation-related cases must also be pursued vigorously.
Mr Blankson must be congratulated for the good work he is doing to ensure that Accra is clean and healthy. Each and every citizen should sacrifice to help in the development of the country for "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".