President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Monday launched an ambitious campaign to tame the country’s unsavoury sanitation challenges, rallying the public to make environmental cleanliness a daily affair.
“This campaign is not going to be a nine-day wonder. It will run over the entire period of my mandate to ensure that Ghana is clean. I remain committed to this and I am determined to ensure that the job is done,” he said to hundreds who gathered at the Banquet Hall of the State House, including former President J.J. Rawlings, ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs) and metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives.
Speaking at the launch of the National Sanitation Campaign, dubbed: “Let’s keep Ghana clean: Play your part”, the President said there would be a re-zoning of concessions for environmental service providers, equipping of tricycle operators and the construction of mini-transfer stations to facilitate the rapid collection and transportation of waste from cities.
The government, he said, also planned the deployment of automated sweepers in main streets and the deployment of Sanitation Brigade personnel along the streets and in major cities.
“That is not all. To keep public officials in check, every ministry, department and agency, including the Seat of Government, has been tasked to assign two officers, to be designated Sanitation Marshal and Deputy Marshal, to oversee compliance of their offices and their staff to the laid down by-laws concerning sanitation in their respective offices.
“Ministers, chief executives and chief directors of government departments and agencies will be held accountable for any lapses in the failure to comply with this directive,” the President, who has pledged to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa, said.
Additionally, he pledged incentives, including access to credit facilities and tax incentives to enable environmental service providers to procure their needed logistics.
Coming on the back of the previous administration’s National Sanitation Day that struggled to attract both sides of the political divide to the monthly clean-up exercises, President Akufo-Addo called for support, acknowledging that the government could not do it alone.
“This is where I wish to call on all of us, especially our chiefs and queenmothers, religious and opinion leaders, civil society organisations, private sector operators to rise up to the challenge and help make a difference this time around,” he said.
As the President launched the campaign to turn around the country’s waste situation, especially in Accra, the central business district and markets within the Accra metropolis are inundated with uncollected refuse.
Residents of some communities along the Accra-Nsawam railway line who are unable to access waste management services have also turned the railway buffer zones into refuse dumps.
Ghana’s waste management and sanitation statistics are not flattering. A recent UNICEF report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ranked Ghana as the seventh worse country in the world with access to basic sanitation.
The same report suggested that at the current rate of improvement, it would take Ghana more than 90 years to eradicate open defecation.
In 2012, a World Bank Report showed that Ghana lost $79 million annually to open defecation.
According to UNICEF, more than 3,600 children died every year from diarrhoea. About one in five Ghanaians is said to defecate in the open, amounting to five million people living without toilet facilities at home.
But in a speech that touched on a number of remedial measures, the President said there was a comprehensive plan to keep everywhere clean.
“We will commence with the government business district, which covers the Presidency, Parliament House, the ministries and the courts. We will focus on the ceremonial and arterial roads going in and out of the city to ensure that they are regularly cleaned up.
“We shall take special care of the airport, major hotels and shopping malls/centres. Residential areas and zongos, the central business district, including the inner city periphery, markets and lorry parks, university campuses, schools and hospitals and beaches and public places of entertainment and tourist centres are all going to elicit special attention,” he said.
Lack of dumping sites in Accra is a major challenge confronting waste management companies in the metropolis.
Apart from the Kpone Engineering Landfill near Tema and the Nsumia site near Nsawam in the Eastern Region, which has been temporarily shut down, there are no other landfill sites in Accra.
The situation has made it difficult for waste management companies to operate efficiently, considering the long distances they have to travel daily to dump waste outside the city.
However, speaking to those concerns, the President said the government had taken measures to acquire, for the Accra metropolis, three new sites to serve as integrated material recovery sites to address the issue of disposal of waste.
The sites are located at Otinibi and Gbawe/Mallam in the Greater Accra Region, as well as Nsumia ‘Number 3’ in the Adoagyiri municipality in the Eastern Region.
He said similar sites were being explored in the other regions to ensure that there were adequate, modern, engineered and environmentally acceptable sites for the processing of waste nationwide.
“It is the policy of the government to acquire and own these sites, in partnership with the private sector. Management service contracts of these sites will be awarded through a competitive tendering process. This policy will ensure fair play and avoid monopoly,” he stated
Waste to wealth
The Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, observed that waste had moved from being just refuse to a resource which, when managed well, could create wealth and job opportunities.
He threw the spotlight on countries that had moved away from landfill sites and cited Singapore as an example of where only two per cent of waste residue ended up at landfill sites and promised reforms in the waste sector to put Ghana on that pedestal.
A representative of UNICEF, who spoke on behalf of Ghana’s development partners, stated that the campaign addressed key elements necessary to achieve success in sanitation that had been achieved by countries such as Bangladesh that was in a similar state as Ghana’s some years ago.
She suggested three key things — sustaining the campaign, funding that should be targeted at the poor who critically needed improved sanitation services and key performance indicators — that would lead to impact and results.
The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Ron Strikker, also rallied the Ghanaian public to the need to keep the country clean, as well as change their attitude towards waste management.