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18.03.2009 Feature Article

Environmental awareness; a must!

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Maintaining environmental cleanliness has been a major problem for many Ghanaians. What is expected from people in terms of keeping a clean environment has been an age long battle yet to be conquered. In as much as people are aware of the consequences of a polluted environment, they still take things for granted and continue to stick to their old habits.

It is basic knowledge that a clean environment contributes to peoples good healthy habits while a dirty environment does the vice versa. The education that the government, through the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) give to the general public seems not to be yielding any fruits. To complement their efforts is the establishment of private waste companies to assist in waste management. However, all the efforts being made by government and other non-governmental organizations could come to nothing if the people themselves do not make a conscious effort to change their habit.

Ghanaians and Waste management habits
Majority of people care less about their surroundings and their health. It is very common to see houses sited beside rubbish dumping grounds, or public toilets or around areas of large stagnant water which breeds mosquitoes. It is a pitiful observation of people not caring much about what they cook or eat. It is common to see kids playing or taking their bath by rubbish sites. According to one Madam Afi Addo, a trader who lives in Afienya, in the Greater Accra region, when she first came to the neighbourhood, the dumping ground was sited on government land, and people caught dumping rubbish there were fined. Due to this, the residents in the area have created their own dumping site within the neighborhood where everybody dumps their refuse.

The refuse dump has grown big and covered the whole community, as a result of which the residents have decided to stop using the place to dump refuse.

But some people are still recalcitrant and still dumping refuse and even faeces at the dump site. According to her, they have to live with the stench of the environment, as they have tried their best to stop people from dumping rubbish there, but all their effort have proven futile.

Sometimes, people take advantage of the rain to dump their rubbish into gutters with the notion that the running water will carry them away. What such people do not know is that the rain only carries the rubbish and heaps them where they become of inconvenience to other people.

Waste management in Ghana
In times gone past, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies provided places of convenience for communities to dump their waste and rubbish. Even then, people still had to walk long distances to dump their waste. However, the proliferation of private waste companies like the Benco Waste Management and Zoomlion has reduced the plight of people since such companies do door-to-door waste collections.

People now have the opportunity to wait for the rubbish trucks to drive directly to their various homes to collect their waste, just like it is done in the western world. Some of the trucks go round twice every week, to carry the waste of their clients who are expected to pay at monthly intervals for the service.

According to one Naa Adjeley Donkor, a trader based in Accra, she is very happy with the role of the private waste collectors, however, she complained about their high fees and would rather suggest that they charge a token for the service to discourage people from throwing their waste into gutters because they can not afford the money charged.

Why will people decide to dump waste behind their homes, into gutters and in the middle of their neighbourhood, knowing very well that a waste truck will come to collect them? Could it be that they do it with intent, or is it financial problems or they just do not get the meaning and importance of a clean environment.

Some even go to the extent of burning rubbish which pollutes the environment. It is mind-boggling why people take their own health for granted.

Sometimes, they tend to forget that the money they pay to the waste collector is cheaper than what they will use to cure diseases at the hospital as a result of unhygienic environmental practices.

Rubbish, Sanitation and Health
When rubbish is heaped and left for a long time, it becomes the breeding ground for rats, flies and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes spread malaria, a disease which is killing millions of people on the African continent. Malaria has also results in maternal mortality among pregnant women, leading to the death of children at tender ages.

Indiscriminate dumping of rubbish near water bodies also tends to pollute rivers and streams when it rains, and when such water is used in rural areas for cooking and bathing, the result is obvious.

According to Wikipedia website, cholera transmission to humans occurs through eating food or drinking water contaminated with cholera vibrios. The major reservoir for cholera was long assumed to be humans themselves, but considerable evidence exist that aquatic environment can serve as reservoirs of the bacteria.

Sanitation is vital for health. A community with a bad sense of sanitation has a high possibility of its people being always sick. According to Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), poor sanitation can cause diarrhea. According to them it kills 5,000 infants and children. Access to hygienic toilets can reduce child diarrhoeal death by more than 30%, and hand washing can reduce them by more than 40%.

Intestinal worms, which are transmitted when people ingest faecal matter or step in it barefooted, divert around one-third of the food a child consumes.

Water is an essential component for human beings and all forms of life on earth; water has always been part of the global commons by default, hence the inalienable rights of individuals to the accessibility of water.

People ought to take care of their own health and not rely on government. It is the responsibility of the society to support the government and NGO's in their quest to bring about a better health care through proper disposal of rubbish. The nation's development does not depend entirely on technology and modernity, but mostly on the people and their health. GPRTU chairman's seat under fire There is an intense pressure mounting on the chairman in charge of the Accra-Kumasi number four branch of the Ghana Private Roads and Transport Union (GPRTU) of the Neoplan station, Mr. Paul Kwabena Badu to resign his post. Some agitated drivers who had been dismissed from the union some years back for gross misconduct, besieged the premises of the union at the Neoplan station last weekend with offensive weapons, demanding that the chairman steps down and render accounts. But for the timely intervention of the police, who made some arrests, the situation would have gotten out of hand. Mr. Seth Kwaku, the spokes person for the agitated drivers alleged that they took the action because Mr. Kwabena Badu has refused to give proper account to the union. He alleged that the chairman has over the past 8 years of staying in office not rendered any account, and the union offices has also never received any face lift. Meanwhile, Mr. Kwabena Badu has rebuffed the allegations made by the drivers. According to him, the drivers were dismissed based on their misconduct and have since lost their membership of the union, hence they have no reason to ask for his resignation or to render an account. He recalled that after their dismissal from the union, they went on to join O.A transport, a private transport company based in Accra. He said they were then dismissed again for reasons he could not substantiate. He said, they later came to plead with him to accept them again into the union. “I was there when they came to me to consider them to rejoin the union, but the executive body refused to accept them” he said. When asked who he suspected to be the brain behind the agitations, the chairman pointed out that he was fully convinced that one Mr. Yaw Manfo, popularly known as Ewiase, a union member based in Kumasi and one Abigimah, an executive of the Ghana Police service. Meanwhile, Accra File investigation proved that the police arrested the nine (9) dismissed drivers, of which four of them were bus owners. A source close to the station told Accra file that the case would be transferred to the CID head quarters for further investigations. The members of the union have also said that all allegations leveled against their chairman is not true.

The spokesperson of the Union, Mr. Paul Ayitey told the media yesterday that Mr. Kwabena Badu has done so much for the union for the past 19 years, and by hook or crook, he still remains their chairman. He said the chairman has bought 128 plots for every member of the union, and has registered them for the health insurance scheme, and has also bought two buses for the union. “He has done so much, we want to maintain him and we like him,” he said. According to the station master of the union, Mr. John Ankomah, the IGP should intervene in this situation because it is getting out of hand. He further urged the IGP, Mrs. Elizabeth Mills Robertson to be very vigilant because some of her men in the police service are in the fore front of some of the bad acts going on in the country. Campaign boards still remain on the streets after elections It's been three months now since the 2008 elections ended, and it seems the authorities in charge of the erection of the bill boards till date have done nothing about the political campaign bill boards.

Even more worrying is the fact that they have allowed congratulatory messages on bill boards to be added to the old ones which they are yet to remove. But it seems the appropriate authorities have relaxed and till now have taken no action or done nothing about the situation. This has become a mess along the streets since the messages on the bill boards have outlived their usefulness. When the elections are over and a President is elected, all the things and activities that are supposed to have been used during the campaign must also be suspended or done away with. But up to date, pictures and bill boards used during the campaign still have space on the streets of Accra.

It is interesting to note that some of the pictures displayed on the boards have been destroyed, leaving the metal stands which reduces the beauty of our roads and streets and an eye sore to people. But it seems that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has done nothing about the situation. Accra file got to know that, it is the AMA who gives permit to the advertising agencies, after which they look on unconcerned as if it is no longer their business.

The Accra file suggests that the AMA should give a maximum period when the bill boards should be removed, especially with the campaign boards.

_anonymous Columnist
_anonymous Columnist, © 2009

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