5 Things We All Know Ghana’s Environment Needs But Never Gets

Ghana has serious environmental problems. Chronic ones. We are one of the dirtiest countries in Africa with one of the lowest populations with access to improved sanitation. We have annual floods (abi the rains have started), epidemic cholera outbreaks, polluted beaches…but you knew all of this already, right? Its frustrating sometimes because you feel like the problems persist year after year and nothing changes. But some of the things we could do to address our environmental problems seem like “common sense”. I think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize some things are just essential. Here is my list of 5.

1. Closed Gutters:

Tell me you haven’t ever wondered why our gutters aren’t covered. At least it has crossed your mind once that the gutters should be covered. After all, it makes sense, right? Our gutters are full of litter, especially plastic. These gutters always get choked and every year there are floods that usually start with the gutters overflowing. In some areas, it’s actually a ritual that as soon as its starts raining, everyone must put their rubbish into the gutters. (Here’s video to prove it). Why? Because “the water will carry it away.” But away to where? To the ocean eventually. Hence our polluted beaches. And then when the gutters aren’t able to ‘carry it away’, it floods. And then sometimes it floods so bad that cars end up falling into these same gutters. Can’t we just cover them? We spend almost all the time during clean-up exercises emptying gutters. Imagine if nothing was inside them to start. When a new road is being constructed, its automatic that the gutters running alongside (if any are provided) will be open. Why can’t they be covered? Wouldn’t that make all our lives easier? So simple, yet so impossible it seems.

2. Wastewater Treatment

In case you didn’t know, every Ghanaian (and foreigner living in Ghana) participates in open defecation. You may be thinking that’s impossible because you don’t shit in the open. But your shit eventually ends up in the open. When you use your toilet at home (or a public toilet), it is flushed into a septic tank (or soak away). When that tank gets full, a septic truck comes and empties it. And then it’s dumped, depending on where you live, straight into the ocean or at a dumping site where it isn’t treated. So our oceans are full of both plastic and shit. Only 1% of the liquid human waste (feces) in Ghana is treated. So yes, indirectly, we are all open defecators. How hard would it be for us to have wastewater treatment? There have been several promises of infrastructure for this but nothing has turned up yet. So it isn’t surprising, that cholera is a yearly thing since essentially, one gets cholera by ingesting infected shit, either through water or food. If we keep dumping it in the open, the cycle will never end.

3. Building Address System

How many times have you struggled to find a location you are visiting for the first time although you’ve been given directions and a google map location? It has happened to me several times and I’m sure you’ve experienced that too. So how much more difficult would it be for sanitation service providers, sanitary inspectors and any other players to locate houses, understand city layouts and plan appropriately for sanitation infrastructure? To aid us in this struggle there was a directive in 2013 that all streets in Ghana should be named and SOME of the streets have been named, but not all. But even if all the streets were to be named, without building numbers the struggle is still quite intense. If a building is in offense of creating an environmental hazard (like how some companies discharge their liquid waste directly into the open gutters instead of treating it) and that business is sanctioned, the most that can be put on that sanction form is the name of the company, and possibly the name of the manager. So if the next day the manager is changed and they change their company signboard, who will be held responsible for that public nuisance? You see where I’m going? So to me the building address system is a no-brainer. 

4. Recreational Spaces:

Name 5 public parks in Ghana. I’ll dash you 100 cedis if you can name 5 public parks that are functional. Difficult isn’t it? (I know there’s the new Rattray, I love it but that’s only one). It is known worldwide that public spaces of recreation such as parks enhance public health and increase environmental sensitivity. Young people in urban places in Ghana hang out at overcrowded malls and betting houses for lack of public spaces. Most of our beaches are either private resorts or party venues. In essence, there is no space for Ghanaians to appreciate their environment, to adore what we have. We need many more recreational spaces. Don’t you agree?

5. Public Dustbins:

Did you know that its illegal to litter? According to the law you can be fined or imprisoned for littering. Of course this law isn’t enforced but imagine if it was. Have you ever found yourself with a piece of garbage after consuming a snack and wishing there was a litter bin you could use? Where do you put your waste when you aren’t at home or work/school? Do you resist the urge to litter and keep it in your bag or pocket? Or do you drop it on the floor of the trotro? Do you make sure no one is looking and drop it on the ground? And if you do are we in the position to blame you? Some believe that whether there are bins or not, you shouldn’t litter. Some too believe that if there are no public dustbins, no one has the right to incriminate someone for littering. What do you think?

 

 

So imagine a Ghana where all drains are covered, wastewater is treated, you know your actual address, you can go to the park with your family or friends whenever you please and there are public dustbins anytime you are in town. Wouldn’t that be a lovely Ghana? So why don’t we have them? Your guess is as good as mine (my guess:  It isn’t politically expedient for the politicians). Do you agree with me? What else do you think should have been added to this list? I’m curious to know your views.

 

Next, I’ll  cover 5 Laws We All Know Ghana’s Environment Needs But Never Seems to Get, because its not just infrastructure but also lawlessness that has landed us where we are.

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