Opinion

Reality Zone: 2016 – total war on filth and environmental pollution

On New Year’s Day, I made one simple wish for Ghana. That our country makes strides, determined to climb to the top as one of the world’s cleanest countries, having been taggedas one of the world’s dirtiest and the second worse for open defaecation.

Despite the wish, I sensed deep down inside me that with the “Road to the Flagstaff House” already pitched for 2016, a warto keep the country clean may not be a priority for now. But it should be.
During the second quarter of 2015, Ghana embarrassingly, was ranked the seventh dirtiest country in the world at a time when the world celebrated World Environment Day. Unfortunately again, just last November, Ghana was ranked second after Sudan with the worse open daefecation record in Africa when the world celebrated World Toilet Day.
We seem to have a grave record on open daefecation across the country with statistics showing that nearly 5 million people, representing 20 percent of the population are openly defaecating. According to the UNICEF, open daefecation is said to cost the country $79m each year while posing the biggest danger to human health. According to UNICEF in Ghana, the country has made zero progress in improving sanitation facilities for its citizens.
We should not allow the disgraceful world rankings to befall Ghana again in 2016. And so one is inclined to believe that the country’s poor rankingslast year have already been picked up as top priorities for fixing in 2016 by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies concerned.
It is obvious that we have not done enough when it comes to keeping up with sanitation. No matter the efforts we have tried to put in at the national, regional and district levels, they seem to have only succeeded in scratching the tip. Much more needs to be done to push us up from the bottom of the pile.
Getting Ghana clean must now become a mind-set if we have to make any impact on the world scene. It must be a daily pledge with focusedideas on what could get us there. But the most important move would be coming from the powers that be.Perhaps, we need to aim at an inter-ministerial, departmental and agency cooperation from all fronts and a media campaign that recognises those who keep their environment clean and publicly shame those who do not.
Time seems to be overdue for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to critically look once and for all into the manufacturing of non-degradable polythene wrappers and bags in this country. If some sister African countries have been able to ban the manufacturing of such polythene and encouraged degradable ones, why are we not learning from them?
The other Ministry that should be up and ready in this fight against filth is the Ministry of Roads and Highways. They should shun road contractors whose designs in this twenty-first century involve open drains. Such contractors live in the past and we should not expect from them any new ways of construction that are people friendly. Meanwhile, the Ministry should show some commitment to a war on open drains and get all major drains in our cities covered to avoid the dumping of refuse.
The Ministry of Local Government should be at the fore-front of this war on filth and be seen to be leading it. Existing laws on filth, indiscriminate littering, environmental pollution and open defaecation must be fully enforced this time around as we wage a war on redeeming Ghana’s image on sanitation. This indeed is the time to engage sanitation officers who would visit homes and communities to ensure people are keeping their environment clean. Why has this been so difficult when people are crying for jobs?
The Ministry should empower the various Assemblies throughout the country to stamp their authority on sanitation. As for households without toilet facilities, one is not sure what is barring the Assemblies from applying the sanctions stipulated in their bye laws. Is it a case that they themselves are guilty of not being able to provide their communities with adequate public places of convenience especially at major lorry stations and markets around the country?
But above all, we should have adequate landfill sites that would readily accommodate the tons of refuse generated on weekly basis in our communities. It is time the District Assemblies stopped doing business with refuse collectors who leave refuse overflowing in residential and open public places for weeks.
The two environmental embarrassments the country suffered last year on the world stage should not be allowed to be repeated in 2016. Coordinated efforts and discipline in applying sanctions should move us from the bottom of the pile.

Source: Ghana| Vicky Wireko Andoh| vickywirekoandoh@yahoo.com

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