Ms. Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, on Tuesday said Ghana would soon celebrate a national Arbor Day to help with the process of greening the country.
Arbor Day is used to encourage the planting and caring for trees.
The Minister said the celebration of the day would help Ghanaians to appreciate and understand the importance of a clean and sound environment.
Speaking at the forum on Environmental Sanitation, Ms. Ayittey said the day would be celebrated similar to the National Farmers' Day where communities and schools that had excelled in the planting of trees would be given awards at a national ceremony.
She said they also intended to start this exercise prior to the rainy season, so that trees planted by people especially school children would grow well and would make it easy for assessment.
The forum on the theme: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness…Create in me a Clean Heart O God” brought together all governmental institutions, including Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as civil society organizations and NGOs in the sanitation sector to discuss ways of finding a lasting solution to the sanitation situation in Ghana.
The forum, which was supported by the World Bank, also had the National Coalition of NGOs in Waste Management pledging to monitor such environmental projects to ensure social accountability.
Ms Ayittey said she believed that current strategies being used to tackle environmental problems must be changed into a long term multi-pronged planning approach.
“This will involve innovative and advanced technologies…I wish to call on the Architectural and Engineering Services Limited (AESL), Department of Urban Roads and District Assemblies to consider in the future, designing roads with covered gutters and as much as possible take measures to cover all open gutters along the streets in the major cities of the country.”
She pledged her ministry's support for any new initiative that will emerge from the forum.
Mr Paul Victor Obeng, Head of the Transition Team, who chaired the Forum, said there was the need to find a sustainable financing mechanism for the waste management sector since we continually generate waste and should be able to manage waste.
“The last time a check was done, government owed waste management companies about 75 million cedis,” he said, and pointed out that such situations could not continue.
He said there was the need for the country to be guided by the cardinal principles of division of labour with responsibilities and added that we are all part of the problem and we must all be part of the solution.
“I hope that at some point in time we can be able to overcome environmental sanitation problems,” he added.
A statement from the Environmental Protection Agency stressed the need to put in place appropriate systems and structures while defining clear roles and responsibilities for the District Assemblies.
“It seems that either the District or Metropolitan Assemblies which have operational responsibilities for waste management do not see this role as their core function or they have not been sufficiently resourced to undertake this function.”
The EPA suggested that Ghanaians should start looking at waste as a great economic resource and should start segregating, recycling and re-using waste at the household levels.
“Unless the waste management sector is recognized and supported by sufficient human resource and training, the sector will not attract qualified professionals,” the statement said.
Mr Affail Monney, Vice President of the Ghana Journalists Association, called on the media to ensure the success of the initiative and urged government to develop a communication plan that gave the media access to information on sanitation and environmental issues.