What is the State of Ghana’s Environment?

Yes, it’s been a long time since I updated but I promise to be getting better at that. As I continue my internship chronicles, I’d like to highlight on (in my own words) the proceedings and observations of the State of the Environment Forum. It was held during the 11th Environmental Film Festival of Accra (EFFA) on the 10thof June this year. This forum was meant to bring all major players in Ghana’s environmental sector together to present the major problems in each sub-sector and develop a list of solutions to present to Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency. As my current specialization is in Water and Sanitation, I joined the break-out session of that sub-sector. The other break-out sessions covered Climate Change, Natural Resources (Mining and Forestry) and Natural Resources (Oil, Gas and Fisheries).

From the proceedings of the session and my own personal observations, it seems we have a problem of infrastructure overload, particularly in the city of Accra. The city’s population has boomed and the government has failed to keep up with its growth with the necessary water and sanitation structures. The result? We all know it. Choked gutters, dead lagoons, polluted beaches, disease outbreaks and let’s not forget that stench that never seems to leave certain neighborhoods. In other areas we still see pitfalls in sanitation but not as trashed. So what is the state of Ghana’s environment? Well… it’s just FILTHY. And the main causes?

Trash…… Everywhere!!!

That about sums that point up! There’s trash everywhere and people have become so used to it that… they’ve just stopped caring. I was once at the Kaneshie Market (trying to get to circle of course) and I decided to do the right thing about some trash I was holding and look for a trashbin. I searched and searched at the lorry station and finally found one tucked away in a corner. How does one even feel prompted to do the right thing when the bin isn’t there? You just join the crowd and throw it in that gutter that’s already full anyways. And sure, there have been attempts at waste collection and recycling by companies such as Zoomlion but once a major part of that company becomes controlled by the government, well, it’s all downhill from there. And so the trash just keeps piling up. Zoomlion was at this session, by the way, and their main complaints seemed to be that people don’t cooperate and that space for landfills is running out. (of course! Space will run out if you’re not dealing with the trash in a sustainable way! But that’s another blog post for another day)

We Eat Our Own Shit

Don’t get squeamish… it’s the sad truth. As Ghanaians, we produce a lot of shit. As a matter of fact, Benjamin Arthur of the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) reported that in the 5 major cities of Accra, Kumasi, Tema, Tamale and Takoradi-Sekondi 160 articulator trucks worth of solid waste is produced a DAY. Now, it’s a living truth that in Accra many people live in houses without toilets and different methods have been devised to get around it. Some use the plastic bag (which usually gets tossed in a gutter somewhere), some do it around Circle (pictured here) and some make themselves comfortable on the beach. Either way it all ends up back in our waterways and eventually in the sea. And oh, don’t you septic tankers leave yourselves out. Those tanks get pumped every 3 months or so and where does it end up? The sea of course. That same sea we fish and eat from. Those same waters that run into our pipes. So let’s face it, we really do eat our own shit.

A Battle of the Minds

Anywhere you go old habits are hard to break but in Ghana, breaking old habits is like pulling the teeth of a lion. We just love our trashy ways. We aren’t willing to consider being responsible as citizens for our environment but have left it to the government. One key question Zoomlion asked was “how ready are Ghanaians to separate their waste at home before collection?” How ready

are you my friend?

We’ve got it all but still want more

Ghana truly is a blessed country in many ways. We’ve got natural resources in our forests, agriculture, mining and now oil (I don’t know how I feel about that though). There are solar rays to be harnessed and tons of waste for renewable energies but instead of getting up off our butts and cleaning up, we want foreign investors to do everything for us. Instead of buying locally produced products, we continuously feed our importing addiction bringing in more trash. If only we valued what we had the way outsiders did, if only we saw ourselves as part of the problem, Ghana’s environment would be in a better state.

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About The Green Ghanaian Intiative

Akua Akyaa Nkrumah is a Ghanaian environmental technologist based in Accra, Ghana. She studied Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland - College Park. She currently works as a consultant for environment and climate change in Accra and has a passion for water, sanitation, recycling and renewable energy
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35 Responses to What is the State of Ghana’s Environment?

  1. Ama Sika says:

    This article is really interesting. That’s great.

    Like

  2. more vim! 🙂

    Great post! I like the focus of the forum held and that Zoomlion and co were present. We need more of those.

    Like

  3. this is good stuff. Trash is definitely something that needs to be addressed especially because it’s a breeding ground for disease spreading pathogens and it contaminates the water that is already scarce in our nations. But what to do!

    Like

    • Dany! There are many corners of the issue and we must tug all ways. First there is education but it must be on all levels. Formal and informal, all ages, all sectors. Then there is infrastructure- where to put it all. Then there is law enforcement- for those that just don’t get it. Its a long journey but we must start somewhere… so here we go!

      Like

  4. Hmmm. We eat our own shit eh? I’d like to think it is a cycle. This fish in the sea feed on our ‘shit’ anyway. That’s their food. That makes them big and juicy to be consumed. Of course to much of it is bad. But can we ‘out shit’ the sea? I’m sure it is the same everywhere around the world. Where are faeces disposed of?

    I think it is a brilliant article and I subscribe to your arguments. I mean there are places in Accra through which when one drives the reaction is a helpless “damn, why the capital city”. My grand uncle used to say in the olden days, if you saw a stranger peeing by the road side, he wasn’t from Accra because there was no way an Accra resident will do that.

    We have everyone migrating to the capital. And they do things like they do in the village. For instance they work on farms and live in the village. They have no toilets in their huts and ease themselves en route to their farms (usually off the pathways). When they move to Accra, they bring the same habits here except in Accra there are not pathways to work so anywhere works.

    Our EPA has a lot to do in educating and enforcing environmental laws. Unfortunately, they are much concerned with granting licences and permits since they make much money from that. So it is up to us through NGOs to require a high standard of cleanliness.

    Thank you.

    Like

    • Kow,

      Thanks so much for the support. I’d like to dispel the myth that human waste is disposed into the seas everywhere. In places where water and sanitation are more structured, all wastewaters (including human excreta) are treated thoroughly before they are released back into the water (be it the sea or a river). This is done at some sort of wastewater treatment plant and removes major pollutants. Its usually the EPA’s job to monitor water quality and heavy fines are given to places that fall short of the standard. This keeps our waters healthy. Nature has provided food for our fish through the food chain. There are plankton and other smaller organisms in the sea for them to feed on. Pollution is a huge problem to our seas and our coastline is changing because of it. I will have to discuss wastewater treatment and coastal pollution into more depth in another post.

      Thank you for your insight on migrants. A great point. Sanitation habits in both the cities and villages must be addressed. The dynamic of the EPA and NGOs is another problematic realm that I will highlight on. Thanks again Kow!

      Like

  5. Golda Addo says:

    Way to go, Akua! There’s a lot to do, and everyone must be in on it. It’s not going to be a breeze. It’s not going to be a parade. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be a catwalk … and that is the first formatting we have to give ourselves … then we will proceed better.
    Well done, and here’s to more where that came from!

    Like

    • Thanks so much big sis. Just following in your footsteps. You are right, its not going to be easy but its not impossible. We need all hands on deck. As Dr. Kwesi Owusu said at the forum, ‘we need to incorporate creativity in our solutions for the environment.’ Hopefully this blog will pool some creativity for our steps forward!

      Like

  6. Dela says:

    I think the issue of Ghanaian sanitation can be solved if we start changing our national mindset. People need serious orientation in this country so that like you, they can consciously look for a waste bin!! That’s the whole start. Good one, Akua.

    Like

  7. McBrown says:

    Interesting post with interesting perspective of things. I know the shit part would make everyone smile but it is the unfortunate truth. We need to act ASAP

    Like

  8. Nana Adwoa says:

    The kind of stuff that we need to hear or read over and over again. Thanks Green Ghanaian.

    Like

  9. Frimpong says:

    It takes only the brave to feed us with this kind of information. We eat our shit in deed

    Like

  10. Ophori says:

    Great piece!

    Like

  11. Oppong Mensah says:

    The pictures alone speak volumes.

    Like

  12. Nana Oduro says:

    Let us have more of these articles

    Like

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  16. Nicholas Cudjoe says:

    Keep it up. Let’s embrace a healthier environment!

    Like

  17. Kwaku Nkrumah says:

    You are really good at this. Keep it up.:)

    Like

  18. evelyn a a says:

    sanitation should ghanaians prove,shit we eat,diposal o waste everywhere nd pollution around,keep it up for real i hope wen i come back to gh someday i will see an improvement in the country,some places like nima,nsamanpoum near the gutter and many more.thanks greengh

    Like

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  20. Titi Bodunrin says:

    Hello,
    I just read through this piece and i am beyond impressed. I am a law student in Lancaster University taking Environmental Law as an elective course and fortunately, i have fallen in love with it . I have always wanted someone to say/write something truthful like this on the state of Ghana’s environment. The truth hurts but it doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth. I’d like to share some of your opinions , referencing you of course, in a class presentation. I don’t know if you will be okay with that..

    Thanks.
    Titi

    Like

    • Absolutely and thank you so much for the supportive words. We have actually moved to our new website GreenGhanaian.org. You can read more of our work there and leave your comments. We’ll send you a private mail to communicate more on your schoolwork.

      Like

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