The National Environmental Sanitation Policy (NESP) was prepared by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. It was approved by Cabinet at its meeting held on Thursday 8th April, 1999 and revised in 2010 to redirect the country’s efforts to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The policy was approved by Cabinet at its meeting of 31st March 2010, with various directives towards achieving desired environmental sanitation standards. Environmental Sanitation was identified in Ghana’s programme of economic and social development in “Vision 2020” as a key element underlying health and human development. It identifies aspects of improved management of human settlements and environmental protection as key factors.
Consistent with the national socio-economic development frameworks such as GPRSII, MDGs and the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the overall goal of the Environmental Sanitation Policy was to develop and maintain a clean, safe and pleasant physical environment in all human settlements, to promote the social, economic and physical well-being of all sections of the population. Achieving this height, the following policy objectives were outlined; (a) Collection and sanitary disposal of wastes, including solid wastes, liquid wastes, excreta, industrial wastes, health care and other hazardous wastes; (b) Storm water drainage; (c) Cleansing of thoroughfares, markets and other public spaces; (d) Control of pests and vectors of disease; (e) Food hygiene; (f) Environmental sanitation education; (g) Inspection and enforcement of sanitary regulations; (h) Disposal of the dead; (i) Control of rearing and straying of animals; (j) Monitoring the observance of environmental standards.
By the year 2020, the NESP is expected to have achieved the following;
- National Environmental Sanitation Day is established by legislation and observed regularly;
- All solid wastes generated in urban areas are regularly collected and disposed of in adequately controlled landfills or by other environmentally acceptable means;
- All pan latrines are phased out (by 2010);
- At least 90% of the population has access to an acceptable domestic toilet and the remaining 10% has access to hygienic public toilet.
- The majority of environmental sanitation services are provided by the private sector.
Successes of the National Environmental Sanitation Policy (NESP)
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 2012 indicated that 71% of the population is using improved variety of household latrines ranging from flush toilets connected to sewer or septic tanks, VIP latrines and pit latrines with slabs. It also reported a high percentage of usage of improved facilities in urban areas (about 83%) as against less than 45% for rural areas. Data from the draft report on 5th Round of the Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSSV) gives coverage of 26.6% and 21.9% in 2006 for urban and rural areas respectively, while the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (DHS, 2008) gave a coverage of improved sanitation facilities of 11.3%.The MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to improved water has been achieved ahead of time. The establishment of institutions proposed initially by the policy and healthy partnership with private sector agencies in the management of waste is a success. Though sanitation problems still exist, there has been an improvement over the 1999 figures in terms of service provision. However, these statistics though seem favourable, most of the proposed outcomes and objectives of the policy are still yet to be achieved.
Efficiency of the National Environmental Sanitation Policy (NESP)
The carefully drafted and well purposed sanitation policy of Ghana is battling to live beyond theory. Although responsibilities have been assigned to individuals, local communities and private firms, the average Ghanaian only realizes the existence of these responsible bodies in terms of cost, but not benefits. Most Ghanaians do not even know the existence of such policies. The flaws in ensuring environmental sanitation could be analyzed with reference to services such as water supply, drainage systems and more importantly solid waste management, etc. A careful look at the linkage between the MDGs and now the SDGs reveals that environmental sustainability is outstanding in development. Although the Government of Ghana is committed to the principles of the MDGs, SDGs and other development frameworks, such commitments have all but failed.
The efficiency of environmental sanitation services to a large extent is contingent on their reliability and regularity of service provision. The issue of direct cost recovery from users pursued by service providers is usually seen as a burden by the consumer. The policy specifies that where full direct cost recovery is not possible, the shortfall or the cost of any service not charged for shall be subsidized by the Assembly. A major problem in this regard, however is how to generate revenue to cover the cost of sanitation services by the Assembly. The policy sanctions the use of the Polluter-Pays Principle to correspond with the cost of restoring environmental damage, however this is hardly practiced. The willingness to pay for sanitation services is a general problem. People prefer to use illegal dumping sites to paying for collection. Due to the difficulty in recovering cost in most cases, the public has entrusted most sanitation provision mandates to private sector agencies such as Zoomlion Ghana Limited, etc. These entities, however tend to skew their services to individuals or communities who can afford, but not to those who really need the services.
Few years ago, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development began what was called the National Sanitation Day on the first Saturday of every month in fulfilment of the NESP. Although the whole idea was laudable and intended to arouse the consciousness and desire of people to live clean, it was seen by many Ghanaians as a ‘political gimmick’. But wait, may be it was a political gimmick after all because the ‘National Sanitation Day’ was marred with corruption, politicization and lukewarmness from Ghanaians. Our lack of commitment as citizens to sanitation issues is making our environment dirtier every blessed day. Unequivocally, I can say that the state of Ghana’s environmental sanitation is dirt, filth, obscenity, indecency and trash; waste everywhere. Our gutters are chocked with plastics and stagnant waters, streets are dirty with gibberish, and fly-tipping is rampantly on the riser. The implications of this is stench, unsavory odour and sickness. The Assemblies are not able to collect and dispose of waste materials in the most appropriate ways regularly as premised in the policy.
Access to hygienic toilet facilities in Ghana is unpalatable. The easiest way for people to defecate in Ghana is through open defecation. Open defecators usually cite the lack of finances, insufficient funds, “too expensive,” or “don’t have money” as key barriers to building latrines or making improvements on their toilet facilities. Ghana is ranked the second country in Africa for open defecation with a whopping five million and over of Ghanaians without access to any toilet facility. In the Upper East, Northern and Upper West regions of the country, 89%, 72% and 71% of people respectively are without access to any toilet facilities, hence resort to open defecation. These among other unaccounted problems are bringing the country’s environmental situation back to where it began.
So, have we as a country made progress in achieving the objectives of the National Environmental Policy? To me the successes of the policy though commendable cannot match the lacuna of problems that are still unresolved. Maybe you can be the best Judge!
Recommendations on the Environmental Sanitation Policy
A Change in Popular Attitudes
The Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II) noted that lack of self-discipline is the cause of most sanitation related problems (such as improper disposal of waste) the country is facing. The throwing of plastic waste “anywhere” by Ghanaians without due regards to the physical environment need to be curtailed. Effective public sensitization could be adopted to change the irresponsible behaviour of some people towards the environment. People need to be educated on the need to respect and value environmental resources. Maybe the problems are already existing but changing our attitudes towards environmental resources, stopping indiscriminate felling of trees, planting more trees, recycling and reusing waste materials can help curtail the problems. Without these, our common resources will continue to be imperil by users.
Proper Auditing/Strengthening of Environmental related Institutions;
Prior to the introduction of the policy some institutions were established to facilitate the achievement of policy objectives. However, some of these institutions are so dormant in carrying out their mandates. Wrong people are placed at right positions in some instances. There is the need to formulate mechanisms for regular auditing especially at the MMDAs and other public agencies in their efforts towards achieving policy objectives.
Intensify Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)
A major challenge of the sanitation policy is funding. This has prompted the partnership with private agencies which have had their fair share of criticisms especially in economic sense. Soliciting donor support, formulating strategies to generate funds internally by various Assemblies, among other alternatives can be adopted to supplement government allocations.
Introduction of on-the-spot fines
Popular attitudes towards sanitation and common pool resources in general could be curtailed by introducing on-the-spot fines for culprits. These could range from cash to sanitation related community services such as cleaning of gutters. This will discourage open defecation, urinating at unauthorized places, fly-tipping and other improper disposal of solid and liquid wastes across the country. It is however pathetic sometimes that the very people reposed with the responsibility of ensuring order are themselves culprits. This notwithstanding the security services need to be firm and intrepid in dealing with culprits of environmental laws in the country.
Minimise the use of Plastic bags
Plastic waste to a large extent is non-biodegradable. The practice whereby goods are packed in plastic materials (even when one buys a sachet of water) should be discouraged. Consumers should develop the habit of reusing plastic bags such as polythene and cellophane, among others. Although paper bags are comparatively expensive, where they are available, consumers should always take good of them for reuse.
Green Minds Ghana Initiative,
University for Development Studies -Wa, Ghana.