The quality of air in Accra remains poor and high above the Ghana national standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr Henry Kwabena Kokofu has said.
Contributors to the poor air quality include, mining, forestry, cement, manufacturing industries, vehicle emissions, and waste burning.
The EPA boss said though there had been some improvement, the current pollution level was more than the national standard of 35 microgrammes per cubic meter of air and WHO’s yardstick of 10 microgrammes per cubic meter of air.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark this year’s International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, Dr Kokofu said air pollution affected quality of life and caused cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
The United Nation’s event, which was on the theme, “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet,” sought to prioritise the need for healthy air for all, while keeping conversations broad enough to encompass other critical issues such as climate change, human and planetary health, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Kokofu said EPA in 2015 estimated that 2,800 lives were lost due to the effects of air pollution and that the number could increase to 4,600 by 2030 if urgent action was not taken.
“In the Ghanaian context, the economic cost associated with air pollution is estimated at US$2.5bn or an equivalent of 4.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (World Bank Country Environmental Analysis, 2019),” he said.
Dr Kokofu said as part of efforts to reduce air pollution, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) through the EPA and other collaborating Ministries and Agencies had taken steps to develop a comprehensive Air Quality Management Plan, Fuel Quality Standards and Standards for Vehicle Emissions.
He said the Ministry and EPA with support from the World Bank was implementing the Pollution Management and Environmental Health programme to collect real time regulatory data for health impact assessment and decision making.
The Executive Director noted that MESTI in collaboration with EPA and other partners had completed the installation of a state-of-the-art air quality devices at the University of Ghana, Adabraka and Dansoman to further control Air Pollution in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA).
Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, the Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer of Accra, said poor air quality was one of the top public health challenges that the local Assembly was working to address.
He said available data indicated that 1,400 people died of poor air quality in Accra alone, explaining that the figure could increase if adequate measures were not taken to keep air pollution low.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly, he said, as part of efforts to address the situation had collaborated with some academic institutions to install sensors to gather data on air quality, embarked on tree planting in the city, beautification public sensitisation, and safe waste disposal.
Mr. Ebenezer Appah-Sampong, Deputy Executive Director/Technical Services of EPA, said the implementation of interventions had resulted in the gradual reduction of ambient particulate matter levels in Accra.
However, he noted that much effort, commitment and resources were required by stakeholders to meet the goals of Agenda 2025.
Mr Appah-Sampong said the Agency in partnership with stakeholders was reviewing the current Air Quality Management Plan to include updated text and improved data from the Pollution Management and Environmental Health programme.
The EPA, he stated, had taken steps to set up air quality networks across major cities to monitor the air quality situation in the country and disclose the outcome to the public.
The growing rural-urban migration and increase in population being experienced in Ghana, is likely to outpace and challenge the already inadequate infrastructure that exists to manage pollution.
The cities of Accra and Tema host most of the country’s industries, some of which are aged and high emitting.
The vehicle fleet of Ghana is also increasing, with the current population of registered vehicles being more than 2.1 million, according to the Driver Vehicle licencing Authority.
The Greater Accra Metropolitan area has the highest number of registered vehicles of about 1.2 million.
These activities, including settlement issues, if not addressed holistically could pose serious risk to ambient air quality and public health in the Greater Accra Region.
In 2016, energy sector emissions accounted for 15.02 megaton of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e), representing 79 percent of total national emissions of 29.28 MtCO2e (excluding net emissions from Forestry and Land Use), a report on review of national emission contributions in Ghana’s (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement indicated.
It revealed that the rising emission trend in the energy sector was driven by the increasing use of liquid fuels in transport and by thermal power generation.
“Light crude oil was the dominant fuel for electricity generation until 2010 when natural gas joined the group of fossil fuels, due primarily to its cost effectiveness. The transport category accounted for 48 percent, followed by the energy industry, 35 percent and manufacturing and construction, 7.2 percent,” the report said.