11 July 2014

Ghana: Country's Dirty Capital

Ghana's capital, Accra is being overewhelmed by uncollected rubbish and there are serious risks to public health. Residents have petitioned the local mayor.

Not far from Ghana's two biggest markets in Accra, the Makola and Agbogloshie, black and white polythene bags and other assorted plastic iterms are piling up in heaps. Waste hasn't been collected for several weeks and has become a nuisance for the public.

You can smell the stentch coming from the garbage. The whole city and other adjourning communities around Accra suffer from the same problem - waste collection has stopped and the rubbish is mounting up.

A fortnight ago, residents matched to the office of the mayor of Accra and presented a petition stating their frustrations. "We want a city that will rival and eclipse the cleanliness and beauty of Singapore", they told DW in Accra.

Waste left uncollected in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. Residents fear a possible outbreak of communicable diseases

Health threat

The rains have started in Ghana and communicable diseases loom in Accra and the surrounding area if no action is taken.

Health expert Ama Ofori Antwi said sanitation has a direct impact on human health. She is pessimitic about the city's immediate future. "There will definitely be an epidemic especially now that we are in the raining season", she said.

But so far no outbreak has been recorded as a result of the bad sanitation in the capital. Improving sanitation can help to prevent any such outbreak, Antwi added.

Government indebtedness

The government has a contractual agreement with waste collectors in the city to remove the waste, but it is unable to pay debts of $5 million (3.6 million euros) which have accumulated over the last two years.

The waste collectors have vowed not to return to work until the debts are cleared. Joseph Siaw Agyapong, president of an umbrell waste collection organisation, blames the government for the dispute, in particular, its failure to pay the service providers. "Over the years the contractors are always neglected," he said.

There is one privately managed refuse site in Accra. But service providers are denied access to it, because the government has unpaid debts there as well.

The head of the waste management department of Accra metropolitan assembly, Joshua Kpodo, concedes that there is a problem. "It is true that we have some wastes accumulation in some parts of the metropolis for the past three months" he told DW.

However, city mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije said that "better days" were ahead with "the construction of our own landfill site".

Accra's beaches are also littered with rubbish and no longer attract visitors

Deputy minister for culture and creative arts, Dzifa Gomeshie, believes individual Ghanaians should take responsibilty for managing their own waste. She has launched a campaign urging Ghanaians to stop spreading their litter. "We should not leave it in the hands of the mayor of Accra, or the minister of environment. No, this is a problem for our nation," she told DW.

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