SOS Mr Adda: a creative approach to sanitation needed!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

I want to remind Sanitation Minister Kofi Adda that we are in July and so there are promises he needs to fulfil. In fact, the seventh month will soon be ending, but as far as I can tell, there is no sign that he is keeping his word to the country.

Earlier this year, Sanitation and Water Resources Minister Mr Adda was quoted as saying that his Ministry was developing a “master plan” to get the country clean. He also promised that by mid-year, we would see “a totally transformed sanitation sector” in Ghana.

So how long are we to wait for the “master plan” to be completed and approved, before its implementation? How long do we have to wait before we see a clean Accra?

It is so very depressing, not to say nauseating, to see the dirty state of our capital city; the weeds and gutters choked with plastic and other waste everywhere one turns. For example, the filthy state of the choked gutter in front of the Agbogbloshie Market; and the overpowering stench around the Mallam Market, where traders are busy selling food items for people to buy and take home to cook and eat, are beyond description.

Why does it seem that our city authorities do not care about the squalor in our capital city?

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It is said that ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’. The squalor in Accra is a desperate situation and, therefore, it requires an extraordinary measure to solve it.
My suggestion is: why can’t we have free collection and disposal of rubbish?

One can guess that funding might be part of, or the main reason why the Adda ‘master plan’ has not taken off. Therefore, I am proposing that there should be a creative approach to funding sanitation costs. Free collection and disposal of household rubbish should be introduced to stop people throwing rubbish into gutters and other unauthorised places.

Instead of people having to pay directly for rubbish collection, whether from their homes or at a communal dump site, the Ministry of Sanitation/the Government should absorb the cost. A modest charge should be added to the services that people consider essential and for which reason they are compelled to pay up, in order to raise money for the rubbish disposal.

The rubbish that we see everywhere is a national disgrace. Furthermore, it has impact on health, as there are attendant diseases. Equally disturbing, the rubbish choking gutters is said to be responsible for the flooding that many places experience when it rains. And floods lead to loss of lives as was reported in Accra recently. Flooding in Kumasi, too, led to a number of deaths. In fact, floods have led to many deaths all over the country; preventable deaths.

There is also the destruction of property, not to mention the related long-term trauma for flood victims and refugees.

Many knowledgeable people have identified two of the main causes of flooding as the buildings of structures on waterways and the gutters/drains filled with rubbish, both of which practices obstruct the flow of rainwater, leading to flooding. The gutters are filled with rubbish undoubtedly by ill-bred people, or by those who cannot afford to pay for their rubbish to be collected and disposed of, or those who have no rubbish dumps near their homes.

A couple of weeks ago, the Mayor of Accra, Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, was quoted as saying on Class91.3 FM: “We’ve spent over GHC 1.5 million to ensure drains are continuously de-silted …. He, however, cautioned residents to stop throwing rubbish into the drains after they have been dredged as it renders their efforts useless.” And these are not problems peculiar to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.

Recently, the Environmental Health Promotion Officer of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, Mr Alexander Nimako, was quoted as telling Oyerepa FM in Kumasi that Kumasi residents are to blame for the flooding.

His reason? “Almost 90 per cent of people living around drainage systems dump refuse into them.” Mr Nyarko said that the offenders have adopted a new strategy of dumping the refuse in drains at night so that the authorities will not see them. He added: “We plead with you, drains are not meant (for) refuse.”

The report also noted that experts have pointed out that building on waterways is also a major contributory factor to the flooding in Kumasi.

The illegal construction of structures on waterways can be taken care of, if there is political will to demolish them for the safety of the community. However, obviously the dumping of refuse in gutters is another matter.

As indicated, if appeals to the public to stop throwing rubbish into gutters and drains are not working, and if it seems that the local authorities don’t have the capacity to monitor and prosecute offenders, then a creative solution must be found. There should be another way of clearing rubbish in cities, towns and villages, by putting the charge or funding on other services, utilities which people are bound to pay for.

For example, when the Ghana Water Company bills customers for water used, they pay an extra one per cent for “fire fighting” and another two per cent for “rural water”. Similarly, why can’t we be asked to pay another one per cent per household for rubbish collection? Or, it could be a modest charge put on fuel or something else.

I believe that even a 10-pesewa charge every time a motorist buys fuel, would soon add up to a substantial, revolving fund that could be used to: assist the sanitation companies; establish more sanitation companies; fund the buying of rubbish disposal trucks; pay staff salaries and fund the construction of many more dump sites.

It’s time to try a creative, pragmatic approach to rubbish collection and disposal in the country. Threats of prosecutions by the local and municipal assemblies have not been able to solve the problems.

The present measures for dealing with illegal rubbish disposal offenders, have not succeeded, hence my proposal: again, that a modest charge should be put on some of the essential services people pay for, to be used to initiate a free, national rubbish collection and disposal scheme.
So, Mr Adda, this is for your consideration from me – free of charge!

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