Although landfills are naturally ugly sights because of the waste they contain, their role in ensuring sustainable waste management practices cannot be overemphasised.
Engineered landfills are critical in maintaining sound environmental and sanitation practices, especially in cities where large amounts of solid and liquid waste are generated daily.
However, when they are poorly managed, the associated environmental and socio-economic impacts are disastrously enormous for the communities where they are located and even beyond.
A haphazardly managed landfill comes with serious environmental hazards.
In Ghana, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pinpointed some of the hazards to include the possible contamination of underground and surface water bodies, the uncontrolled migration of landfill gas, the generation of odour, noise and visual nuisance.
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It is against this background that the report that three weeks of rains in Kumasi that have left the only access road to the Oti Landfill site unmotorable, leading to trucks and tricycles known locally as Borla taxis unable to discharge waste, thereby creating an environmental threat, must be taken seriously.
What is even more disturbing are the mountains of solid waste that have been piling up at waste transfer sites within the communities.
The development must be a source of concern to not only the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) but also all residents of the city, especially as the health of the people is at risk.
The Oti Landfill has gone through a chequered history since its establishment in 2004.
Its operations have led to acrimonious conflicts between the authorities and residents of the surrounding communities, who have had cause to complain about the negative impact the activities at the site are having on them.
For instance, in September 2016, a section of the residents of Oti demonstrated against the offensive odour that spilled over to the community.
Managing the landfill has come at a high cost to the assembly. According to Mr William Stanley-Owusu, the Managing Director of J. Stanley-Owusu Company Limited, the company contracted by the KMA to manage the site, the assembly owed the company about four years in management cost and as a result the company had virtually withdrawn its workforce.
Five new municipal assemblies – Kwadaso, Oforikrom, Asokwa, Suame and Old Tafo – were recently created out of the KMA but they are not directly in charge of waste management in their respective areas.
It is the KMA that still holds the responsibility for managing waste in the metropolis.
While the Daily Graphic welcomes the mitigating measures the KMA is taking to ensure that the road is put in order in the interim to enable the trucks to discharge the refuse, it is important that the Ministry of Roads and Highways goes in to fix the road as a long-term measure because it is clear that the limited resources at the disposal of the assembly cannot undertake the tarring of the 2.8 km road.
Equally important is for the government to find money to pay the management of the Oti Landfill, so that it will return to site.
Its withdrawal from the place is worsening matters and this must be tackled with all seriousness.
As a permanent solution to the sanitation challenge in Kumasi and, indeed, other cities of the country, we believe the way to go is the recycling of waste, especially waste-to-energy which has proved to be preferable in modern-day waste management.