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15.04.2008 General News

THE HAZARDOUS WASTE ISSUE

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In the light of campaigns and strong lobbies in other countries against the threat posed by electronic and electrical waste, we welcome the warning bell sounded last week by the African Network of Environmental Journalists.

The Network has concluded that Ghana is increasingly becoming a favourite destination for discarded used computers, television sets, and other electronic gadgets.

Briefing the media in Accra on public health and environmental hazards of electronic waste in the country last Friday, Mike Anane, the vice-president of the organisation, said the irresponsible dumping of electronic waste in the country by industrialised countries 'presents a major international environmental justice scandal'.

The continued exportation of toxic electronic waste from the industrialised countries to Ghana and other developing countries is unfair, immoral and ought to be criminalized, he said.

He pointed out that the used electronic appliances contain toxic materials, thus 'the threats posed by the widespread shipment and indiscriminate dumping of waste demonstrates 'a national failure to effectively protect public health from toxic waste.'

We agree with the Network that there is a serious danger that, strangely, the environmental authorities seem to have closed their eyes to.

We would go further to say that an even more grave, pervasive threat is that of the huge quantities of fridges and freezers discarded in other countries that somehow end up in Ghana. These are gleefully bought by people as cheap second-hand appliances for their homes or for commercial use.

For example, all over Accra these second-hand fridges and other electrical appliances have been displayed for sale and nobody seems to be doing anything about the situation.

Such old appliances soon end up on the rubbish dump, or discarded elsewhere, posing a serious threat to the environment because their components include harmful substances.

Furthermore, the people buying them cheap are really not getting the bargain they envisaged. In the case of old fridges, for example, the experts say they consume more energy, thus leading to higher electricity bills for the owner.

However, we take issue with the Network’s accusation that it is the industrialised countries that are to blame for dumping their electronic waste on this country.

We believe that an investigation into the matter will show that it is money-minded and, in some cases, naïve Ghanaian businessmen and women who are importing the appliances for sale here, so let the blame be put squarely where it belongs.

Some of the importers may be described as naïve because they may genuinely not know the health hazards associated with importing old electronic or electrical appliances; they may just see it as good business.

However, we do agree with the Network of Environmental Journalists on what they are urging the government to do: Put in place a comprehensive national plan to check the dumping of electronic and electrical waste in this country.

The government should as soon as possible review the country’s environmental laws and regulations so that there will be heavy penalties for people who, knowingly or naively, import other people’s hazardous waste into this country to sell to the unsuspecting public.

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