Today is World Environment Day, but the celebration in the country is dented as far as the prevailing environmental situation in parts of the country is concerned.
Almost every part of the country is inundated by filth, including plastic materials that are littered around homes, offices and institutions, while most drains are choked with waste, to the extent that when it rains, stagnant water spills into homes and roads, causing devastating floods that destroy lives and properties.
Consequently, any threat of rain now causes fear and panic in people, particularly those living in low-lying communities.
The national capital, Accra, is a typical example of how the ineffective management of waste, including planning and indisciplined behaviour by some people, causes avoidable deaths and destroys properties whenever it rains, even for a short period.
Another significant practice destroying the environment is the wanton felling of trees and littering along the beaches.
Even though Ghana is blessed with a coastline, its poor management is denying the state of much needed revenue.
The ineffective care of the beaches, particularly in Accra, has exposed the shoreline to constant abuse by some patrons, food vendors and mentally deranged persons who have turned some of those sandy beaches into places of abode.
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There is also the indiscriminate dumping of waste, including human excreta, into the sea and the rearing of livestock around the beaches, with its attendant repulsive odour.
The filth at the beaches is not only an eyesore; it is also causing the destruction of marine life.
The country’s shoreline, which forms part of the Atlantic Ocean, has become grounds for the dumping of tonnes of waste, which is “swallowed” by the sea, leading to heavy pollution of the ocean and the eventual loss of fish.
This large-scale pollution of the coastline and the ocean has sullied the once pristine beaches that served as public places of relaxation and solid attraction for some tourists.
When the Daily Graphic team visited some beaches at Korle Gonno, James Town, La and Teshie, it saw appalling heaps of trash, mainly plastics, that had been washed ashore. There were also scenes of waste being burnt, open defecation and rearing of livestock.
The dirty beaches appear to defy the resolve of the government to make Accra, a city that generates about 3,000 tonnes of waste daily, the cleanest in Africa.
At the Korle Gonno Beach, for instance, there was a heap of plastics floating in the sea, with the tide constantly depositing chunks of the debris on the beach that looked like a landfill site.
Heaps of garbage, most of it plastic, including water and alcoholic beverage bottles, grocery bags, disposable cups, food containers, sacks, old fishing nets, torn clothes and worn-out shoes, were strewn along the beach.
“We have to burn some of this filth most of the time because nobody comes to collect them,” Desmond Tutu, a 29-year-old cleaner at the beach, said.
He said although the beach had remained a favourite resting ground for most families and individuals, some people still eased themselves in the area.
“We continually stop people from openly defecating at the beach because we usually use our bare hands to clear the filth to keep the beach clean,” he added.
There was also liquid waste, consisting of a mixture of heavy metals and hazardous chemicals from batteries, plastics and mercury that sips into the ocean, poisoning marine life and triggering marine algae blue that also affects fishing.
According to the Director of Natural Resources at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Karl Fiati, the harmful pollutants could get into the food chain and be consumed by people.
At the La Pleasure Beach Resort, the situation was somehow better, except that at some places carcasses, tree stumps, plastic bags and bottles, old fishing nets, food containers and pieces of cutlery had been washed ashore.
Some revellers described the area as ‘disgusting’.
“You go to the beach to enjoy yourself and get some energy, but when you come here, what you see is refuse. One cannot walk a distance without stepping on plastic bags,” a Swiss, Alice Leandro, lamented.
In the view of Papa Abakah, a Level 400 student of the University of Ghana, “the management of beaches must sit up if Ghana is to make gains from its beaches”.
When contacted, the Administrator of the La Pleasure Beach Resort, Mr Afutu Nikui, however, described the beach as one of the best in Ghana and the sub-region, for which it attracted people from far and near, although he acknowledged the fact that the sanitation situation there was “seriously pushing some tourists away”.
According to him, GHc3,500 was spent daily to cart waste containers from the beach to dumping sites.
“As a resort, we are at the receiving end of the huge waste generated in the capital that is washed down the drains into the ocean. As a result, our topmost priority here is sanitation and not security.
“Currently, 95 per cent of the money we generate is channelled into waste management and this has crippled our capacity to raise funds to develop the beach to an appreciable standard,” he added.
At the Teshie Beach, the situation was not different.
About 100 metres from the beach is the Teshie Presbyterian Senior High School, whose students and teachers have endured persistent smoke from burning refuse over the years.
“The refuse dump poses a serious health hazard to our students and teachers, particularly those who are asthmatic. Often, these persons opt out of class to prevent any asthmatic attacks,” a source at the school alleged.
“Sometimes when we cannot bear the smoke, we have to mobilise students to go to the beach and quench the fire,” it added.