The Reality of Pollution

Two Green Ghanaian contributors, Akua Akyaa Nkrumah and Akua N.M, had the opportunity to be part of a The FG Show, a Choice FM Saturday morning talk show focused on pollution on Saturday, May 18.  Hosted by Abigail Ashley, the one hour and a half discussion in both English and Twi also included members of the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement.  Below you will find a summary of what was discussed.

Pollution in the Ghanaian Context

Polluted waterway

Pollution was defined as the introduction of something that  is poisonous or harmful into any environment. That means if you have a cup of water and someone drops a foreign object inside it, your water is polluted.  Pollution can classified into: air pollution, land/soil pollution, noise pollution and water pollution.  There are additional forms of pollution, including radioactive, thermal and light pollution but those were not covered in the discussion.

Issues pertaining to air pollution were brought home by touching on sources of indoor air pollution such as smoke from  the burning of firewood and charcoal as well as outdoor air pollution caused by indiscriminate burning, fumes from car exhausts and dust from unpaved roads. An article from 2012 cited a World Health Organization report that found that more than 6,500 lives are lost annually in Ghana as a result of exposure to pollution caused by use of inefficient cook-stoves and fuels.  Almost all major cities in Ghana are seeing increases in air pollution with Accra topping them all. Low income areas that have major trotro (public bus transport) routes will see the impact over the years with an increase in lung related diseases and infections such as lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma.

Air pollution

The root causes of land

 pollution were identified as leachate from landfills, chemical discharges from illegal small scale mining activities (galamsey) and the terrible littering habits of Ghanaians.  This took us into the subject of choked gutters and how there will most likely be flooding this rainy season due to uncleared gutters and illegal buildings on floodplains. The mayor of Accra has already called upon citizens to assist in keeping areas clean for the upcoming rainy season.  The last type of pollution that was discussed was water pollution. There was hardly enough time to discussion water pollution and we hope to be on the FG show again soon to highlight potential solutions!

One point that was raised at the beginning of the show was that many Ghanaians have learned about pollution and potential interventions they can implement to help curb pollution in school but don’t seem to apply those lessons to their lives. We here at Green Ghanaian know that pollution is more than just a textbook topic and have asked another Green Ghanaian contributor, Raphael Berchie, to describe how he encountered all four types of pollution on just one trip across town.

Pollution on the Ground

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I woke up on Saturday morning to cloudy skies and poor visibility due the winds blowing dust. If the weather forecast of the previous night was anything to go by then clearly there should have been rains notwithstanding the fact that we were in the month of May (a rainy season month by the Ghanaian calendar).The weather showed strong signs that rains were imminent but when you have lived too long in Accra, your instincts do the prediction of the weather for you not the visibility of clouds. And just as I expected the rains never  as at the time I was leaving home.

At that point I began to ask myself, is this climate change thing real? Growing up in the Garden City (Kumasi), any obvious sign of clouds always ended up in rain. But twenty years later the situation has entirely changed. Nowadays even meteorologists are working harder to regain their credibility when it comes to weather forecast. No one can predict the weather.

With these thoughts I set off from my house hoping for good weather and less of the usual chaotic traffic that Accra typically has on weekdays. Here too my expectations were far from what I got.  Just as I had left my house the weather changed significantly from one of a cloudy weather to that of a sunny  and a very scorchy one don’t know if I can compare that to that of the Death Valley’s.It was so hot that I didn’t need a thermometer to know we have crossed 30 C. So then again I began to ask myself  is this global warming thing true?Now I do not need to see the melting of polar ice caps at Antarctica to believe this.Global warming is right here with me in Accra and I do not need to travel to look for signs.

From that point I began to recall what I had learnt in elementary science about pollution and how it contributes to climate change and global warming. I then decided to pay keen attention of all the forms of pollution I noticed around me.

I have no doubt that Accra is one of the noisiest cities in the world.  Talking about sound pollution I think I will have to take a retrospective look at what happened in my vicinity the previous night.There are almost 10 churches with 9 being Charismatic  in my neighbourhood within about 300m of my catchment area. Friday nights are all night so I rest my case here.I will pardon the drinking bars and joints for today.

When I got to the roadside, it was so noisy. Drives honking their horns indiscriminately and driver’s mates screaming at the top of their voices in their bid to attract passengers,people blasting their multi watts speaker and woofers from their cars,funerals and shops that play music all did their best to tell me that indeed sound and noise pollution are a part of the Ghanaian way of living.

I managed to get a trotro from Adenta to Madina and halfway through this short journey here was I stuck in a Mexico city styled vehicular traffic .Staying in this traffic for even a minute is hell.It was there that I took note of the fact that most of the vehicles on our roads had smoky engines.The fumes from the exhausts of these stationary cars could suffocate you to death.So the air pollution.‎ too has not spared me.The scorching sun coupled with the excesssive noises prompted me to quench my thirst.In frustruation I did not even take notice of the brand of satchet water I bought.It was after I had gulped in a significant quantity of the water that I realised it tasted funny and lo and behold I didn’t need anyone to tell me the water was overchemicalised so just in a matter of five minutes I have come face to face with three forms of pollution.

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In our attempt to swerve the traffic our driver reversed and decided to use a link route.This took us through the alleyways of Madina. I regretted not walking because our route had the worst sites to see. The grounds had tons of litter and partially decomposed garbage with an awful stench. Here I have come in contact with three forms of pollution at a goal, the heavily polluted land,the awful stench emanating from this refuse dump accompanied by the smoke from its burning were testimonies of air pollution. And lastly there was a water body near as well as wells around so water pollution was also within the precincts. So just in a matter of 10 minutes I had come in contact with almost all the forms of pollution as well as their effects on our planet.I will end here in order not to bore you too much  because what I have in store is even more than what I have already said and this is just the beginning of my journey from Adenta to Osu on a saturday morning and Adenta to Madina is not even half of the entire journey.

Yes indeed, Ghana is living with pollution and we encounter different types of pollution on daily basis.  If we do not take care and do our part, pollution will become a Ghanaian way of living.

#WeDeserveBetter

#KeepGhanaGreen

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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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