Environmental sanitation is a key issue that when properly tackled adds to the value of the country and Ghana is no exception.
Following the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufu-Addo’s Jamestown declaration that he was going to make Accra the cleanest city in the whole of Africa, sanitation and waste management have become a priority and the most talked about topic among Ghanaians.
As a democratic republic of almost 30 million people, Ghana is one of the most urbanized countries on the African continent. The capital Accra has become a cosmopolitan city with Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale following closely. In 2015, the World Atlas established that, half of the Ghanaian population lived in towns and cities and this rapid urbanization poses many challenges with sanitation being the most teething problem.
But UNICEF suggests there is no clear urban basic sanitation strategy and plan in Ghana which is contrary to a 50-years environmental sanitation plan put in place by the Jospong Group of Companies (JGC) owners of waste management giant Zoomlion Ghana Ltd. Also, various approaches and interventions in urban basic sanitation are quite not effectively coordinated and monitored with the private sector being the key players led by Zoomlion in the industry.
Bad sanitation practices and negative human attitudes towards waste and sanitation have yielded more problems and dangers against the nation and yet the Government of Ghana the custodian of waste in the country have done very little to address the menace. There is insufficient collaboration and no deliberate attempt by government to push the private sector to heights whereby the waste problems can finally be brought to controllable limits.
On the 15th of August 2019, the Kpone Landfill in Tema in the Greater Accra Region caught fire and for six weeks running the fire is yet to be put off which has resulted in the landfill being closed down. This and consistent complaints made to Members of Parliament by constituents and Civil Society Groups triggered jointly three Parliamentary Select Committees of Sanitation and Water Resources, Local Government, Works and Housing and Environment, Science and Technology to touch base with the problems in the four metropolitan areas namely, Kumasi, Accra, Tamale and Takoradi with a tour to ascertain the magnitude of the problem. They visited landfills and some key private waste management facilities in the aforementioned metropolis.
The four-day tour began in Kumasi and the MPs were received by the Ashanti Regional Minister, Hon. Simon Osei-Mensah who led the committee members to the Oti Landfill site to assess the problems thereof. They saw many trucks loaded with waste queueing in a muddy and inaccessible road to dump in the messy Oti Landfill and the MPs bemoaned the dangers the leachate from the landfill poses to the lives of Ghanaians living in that area and called for government’s quick intervention to mitigate the catastrophe awaiting. They forcefully visited where the people of Kumasi dislodge liquid waste near the Oti River and to their amazement the drivers dumped directly into the river which drove the MPs mad to questioning why the Sanitation and Water Resources Minister Cecilia Abena Dapaah who is a native of Kumasi has not made efforts to stop the problem within her community.
Overwhelmed with what they saw in the region at the landfill and sludge dumpsite, the MPs upon information they got that Zoomlion Ghana Limited had constructed a 10 thousand metric ton capacity modern integrated recycling and compost plant called the Kumasi Integrated Compost and Recycling Plant (KCARP) which is ready for commissioning by December this year, went to see the impressive facility.
To their amazement at the facility, the MPs were full of praises to JGC for taking the lead to solve a national problem of such magnitude. Kumasi generates 1,500 tons of municipal solid waste every day meaning the one thousand-ton facility is capable of processing and recycling most of the waste generated by the people of Kumasi.
The 1,000-acre land is said to be released by the King of Asanteman, Nana Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II free of charge to the businessman Dr. Agyepong and the company has also constructed a 10 kilometer road to the new plant for vehicular accessibility of the facility when opened later this year.
Sewerage Systems Ghana Ltd. another subsidiary of the JGC also has commenced construction of a 13 million Euro wastewater and faecal matter treatment plant in Kumasi to end the haphazard sludge dislodging in the Garden City which is inimical to the health of the people.
The tour took the MPs to the Northern Regional Capital Tamale, where they visited the Gbalahi Landfill and the sedimentation ponds. It was obvious they were unhappy about the sanitation situation and wished JGC replicates the IRECOP and SSGL concepts to bring sanity to the area in terms of waste management.
The Managing Director of ACARP Mr. Michael Tuwor gave the MPs assurance that JGC will replicate IRECOP and SSGL in Tamale as soon as possible provided government signs the off-taker agreement. He said the plants have already been procured and are seated in Accra wait for a signal.
In the Greater Accra Region which is the seat of government, the committee members visited some notable private waste management facilities such as the Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited (SSGL), Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant (IRECOP), Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP), Universal Plastics Product and Recycling Limited (UPPRL) all of the JGC and finally to the Kpone Landfill site which is currently under fire. The landfill has already exceeded the permissible level of intake of garbage. Upon the realization that the lifespan of the landfills have never exceeded seven years, the MPs having considered what pertains in Kumasi and Accra declared sanitation as a national crisis.
The SSGL is an Engineering and Construction and waste treatment company with focus on the provision of efficient liquid waste treatment. SSGL has also built a faecal matter treatment plant at Adjen Kotoku and rehabilitated the Mudor Sewerage Treatment Plant also at James Town.
The company’s facility at Jamestown has solved the over 110 years Lavender Hill faecal matter problem which led Ghana to an undesirable World ranking placement of seventh dirtiest country. Hitherto sludge dislodgement was done directly into the sea. Their technology is the most effective, efficient and environmentally friendly setting for liquid waste disposal and treatment in Ghana.
The team also visited the Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant (IRECOP) at the Accra Waste Recovery Park near the Korle Bu Mortuary where waste is being recycled. This facility which has created 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in the waste management value chain receives, sorts, processes and recycles municipal solid waste to produce organic compost for agronomic purposes in Ghana and the sub region as well as plastic recyclables for the plastic manufacturing industry. They also saw a good number of similar plants imported by the company to be replicated in the 16 regions.
The MPs were then unanimous in their decision that IRECOP was the most appropriate means by which Ghana should manage its ever increasing waste and therefore called on the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufu-Addo to instruct his ministers and agents to as a matter of agency sign the off-taker agreement with the private entrepreneur Jospong to replicate the facility in the rest of the regions. They say IRECOP doesn’t waste land, creates more jobs than landfills and uses modern technology which is safer than the landfill does to humans.
Impressed with what the private sector is doing to fill the need for waste management infrastructure, the MPs took a site seeing to Kotoku Faecal Treatment Plant and the Accra Compost Plant (ACARP) which is also into compost fertilizer production and plastic recycling and facal matter treatment. This facility (ACARP) located at Adjen Kotoku processes 600 tons of waste within 16 hours.
From here, only 15% residue of the huge waste brought in is taken to the landfill site.
The team left Adjen Kotoku having seen for themselves the incredible work done here for the Universal Plastic Product and Recycling Plant (UPPR) another sister company of the JGC which basically recycles plastics into waste bins and bin liners for waste collection.
Recently, the Executive Chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies, Dr. Joseph Siaw Agyepong announced the one-million waste bin project which he said he contracted a 10-million-dollar loan from Ecobank to produce and distribute into households for waste collection across the country as a means of helping to achieve the president’s clean Ghana vision.
Finally, in Accra, the MPs toured the Kpone landfill site to ascertain the situation that led to its closer. They were shocked at the heap and size of the landfill which has exceeded limited levels. To worsen the case was this fire and poignant smoke that engulfed the whole landfill for weeks without a clue as to how the fire can be calmed down. The MPs left the place wearing sad faces with the obvious question of what do we do as leaders?
They were to visit the capital of the Western Region, Takoradi the next morning to round up their national tour. In Takoradi, the MPs could not hold themselves with the situation at the landfill site as the management function was taken away from Waste Landfills Ghana Limited in 2017 to be managed by the Metropolitan Assembly who has woefully managed the place and called on government to as a matter of agency re-award same to Waste Landfills Ghana Limited which has an impeccable record in landfill engineering and management in the sub-region.
The MPs believed the assembly has no capacity to manage the landfill. From this sad note, they returned to Accra.
On Thursday October 3, the Members of Parliament from the three select committees declared Ghana’s sanitation problem a crisis situation at a press conference. The press conference was called to make known their findings after the tour.
The MPs were of the view that the sanitation situation has aggravated to a national security threat that required urgent action by government and all political leaders.
The team discovered during the tour that the assemblies which have the mandate to ensure the country is clean are under enormous compression for innumerable reasons among which are financial and political.
The MPs however said looking at the kind of waste management facilities Ghanaians have put in the system, the assemblies no longer have a choice than to adopt the effective and efficient Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant (IRECOP) and waste water treatment plants to recycle majority of the municipal solid and liquid waste generated in their areas.
Recommendations and the vexed issues.
The Members of Parliament from the three joint select committees have seen it all, they have equally spoken in anguish standing on the viewpoints of members in-position and members in-opposition. Question- can the anger of the MPs and their declaration of sanitation as a security threat and a crisis situation push Nana Addo’s government to be strategic and sign the off-taker agreement with the private entrepreneur to replicate the IRECOP and SSGL in the sixteen regions to arrest the climbing haphazard liquid and municipal solid waste disposal for the benefit of Ghanaians or the saying that no amount of anger expressed on the face of the Billy- goat will stop the owner from taking it to Bolga Market will suffice to reflect that Nana Addo even though has seen and head the crying voices of the MPs from their constituents will not yield to their plight?
The consequence of a refusal by the President to open that door for the replication of such plants in the regions is the direct attack on his own vision. It will mean he is saying one thing and doing another and that raises several political questions without answers.
Will the MPs go to bed after the tour and talkskow and further draw partisan views on the situation to muddy the waters at the expense of the Ghanaian people as they have often done or, true democracy will prevail this time whereby the people’s interests surmount the servants’ pride?
The MPs should not limit it at the press conference, they should write a communique and also a letter on their findings to the Speaker of Parliament and the President of the Republic for a cabinet decision to be made on the subject matter.
In an era where we speak to encourage the usage of made in Ghana goods, we should equally speak about the patronage of made in Ghana entrepreneurship. When we patronize made in Ghana goods, services and entrepreneurial activities more of our money is kept in Ghana and not shipped out of the country. So, therefore, there is no gain asking the Nana Addo government to ensure that they build Ghanaian empires than support foreign companies who will only give menial jobs to Ghanaians and share the lucrative ones and repatriate money to their families abroad to weaken further our cedi.
By signing the off-taker agreement IRECOP alone will bring over 32,000 jobs while SSGL will create over 3000 direct and indirect jobs for the Ghanaian youth and the President need to think about that.
The writer, Francis Atayure Abirigo is a Development Communications Expert