Waste menace in Tamale

Wed, 27 Mar 2013 Source: Ziem, Joseph


By Joseph Ziem

Waste and sanitation management everywhere in the world including Ghana is capital intensive. Not even in developed countries where its management is driven by hi-tech, aside having proper disposal sites and being able to maintain them.

This notwithstanding, when there is the will and sincere show of commitment by all citizens including faith groups and civil society organizations (CSOs), waste management in densely populated areas could culminate into wealth creation through the generation of natural gas for domestic use and organic manure for the fertilization of farmlands that would benefit a whole lot of people, and perhaps generations to come.

Indeed, this could best be described as one of the best or surest means of fighting climate change and desertification which result from overdependence on fuel wood, indiscriminate felling of trees, bad farming practices, charcoal production, among others. Unfortunately in Ghana, one of the most promising nations in Sub-Sahara Africa, weak waste and sanitation management laws are not helping the situation. This, coupled with the laid-back attitude of faith-based groups and CSOs in providing support, is further bloating annual government expenditure under the nose of political leadership who also seem not to be taking the right decisions to deal with the gargantuan sanitation and waste problems. This has made it difficult if not impossible, for the nation’s leadership to meet certain critical development needs the ordinary citizens are yearning for.

It cost the government of Ghana US$290 million or GH¢420 million representing 1.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product each year due to poor sanitation, according to a study by the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP). The desk study, Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa - Ghana, found that the majority (74 percent) of these costs come from the annual premature deaths of 19,000 Ghanaians from diarrheal diseases, including 5,100 children under the age of 5, nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. Health-related costs account for nearly 19 percent of the total economic costs, while access time and productivity losses account for about 7 percent. The study also found 4.8 million Ghanaians have no latrine at all and defecate in the open, and that the poorest quintile is 22 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest.

Tamale, the fastest growing city in West Africa in recent years, is gradually emerging as a slum despite being adjudged the cleanest city in Ghana on three occasions. This is because, waste and sanitation management has taken a partisan dimension and further made worse by supporters of both the NPP and NDC who have decided to align themselves with either divides of the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute, thereby making many people feign interest in taking part in communal cleanup exercises over the years out of mere resentments.

For instance, during the Administration of NPP’s Mohammed Amin Adam Anta as Mayor of Tamale, most NDC members deliberately refused to take part in general cleanup exercises. The reverse is happening now under the current Administration of Alhaji Abudulai Haruna Friday of the ruling NDC who finds it difficult to rally support from most residents of the city. Thus, the Assembly continue to spend GH¢2.5 million every year on sanitation and waste management alone, according to official report. Also, there are inadequate drainage systems or gutters in over 50 percent of the entire Metropolis which is the cause of life threatening floods in recent years. This has also led to serious erosions thereby making most of the areas dirty and considered as emerging slums.

Cleanliness, the two Holy Books (Bible and Qur’an) say, is next to godliness. But surprisingly, in a largely religious community like Tamale where Christians and Muslims are taught to observe cleanliness in their daily lives and also consider it a spiritual obligation, it is so appalling to see choked reeking gutters and incinerators in almost every corner of nearly all vicinities in the city.

Few examples of vicinities considered by this writer as the dirtiest places in the Metropolis include Tishegu/Ward K, Kalpohini/Sangani, Kukuo, Duanayili, Changli, Gumani, Jisonaayili, Kanvilli, Vitting, Dabokpa, Koblimahagu, Sakasaka, Nyohini, Lamashegu, Gumbihini, Gurugu, Tamale Polytechnic, Choggu, Bulpiela, Zogbeli, Nyanshegu, among others.

In fact, most of these settlements are turning into slums by the day due to poor planning of buildings and erosion as well as poor waste and sanitation management. When walking through houses in these vicinities, one needs to be very careful or risk stepping into human excreta disposed off carelessly by residents. Majority of residents in Tamale wantonly and inanely dispose-off garbage and defecate anyhow and anywhere they find; be it in the gutters/drainage systems, trenches, nearby bushes or shrubs during the day or night time.

Communal bathrooms in almost all the homes in Tamale do not have properly built incinerators for water intake and for that matter; waste water is discharged carelessly into walkways running through various homes. Besides, almost all rooms in every home have a bathroom where tenants who prefer to bath inside their rooms instead of the communal bathroom, also discharge the sewage anyhow without recourse to cleanliness. For these residents, not even the frequent treatment of malaria and other insect or water borne diseases, can tell them that it is as a result of their bad attitude towards sanitation that is why they fall sick so often and for that matter must adopt good sanitary practices. Indeed, the filthy situation in the Tamale Metropolis can be attributed to the lack of spirit of volunteerism or communalism among majority of residents. As a result, this is gradually eroding the successes chalked in recent years by authorities of the Assembly. In AD 2005, the Tamale Metropolis was adjudged the cleanest city in Ghana. Three years after that honor (AD 2008) was bestowed on it by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) also rated the city again as the cleanest in Ghana. The Metropolis capped this accolade for the third time in AD 2010, with another award from Zoomlion Ghana Limited as the cleanest city.

Assembly Members and their Unit Committees, who are supposed to promote development initiatives in their localities on behalf of the Assembly, simply cannot mobilize their people to de-silt choked gutters or incinerators and cleanup filth due to petty resentments among the people. Anytime they make the move, the youth will accuse them of collecting money from the Assembly as contract awarded on the cleaning of the gutters and therefore, will not toil for nothing.

This is where one would think that religious organizations (churches/mosques), must step in immediately to regularly and consistently organize their members to embark on cleanup exercises to tidy up the dirty environs of Tamale as a demonstration of what they preach on their pulpits on Fridays and Sundays or any other day. This is because, when state institutions such as the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly begin to show symptoms of failure by not enforcing the laws or finding it difficult to do so, it is highly anticipated that the clergy who serve as a bridge between society and God, would ask for ‘spiritual cleansing’ on behalf of their people (leading their members in a crusade against the volumes of waste engulfing the city through cleanup exercises). Moreover, if members of the about one thousand churches and mosques in the Tamale Metropolis including thousands of traders, dressmakers, beauticians, sachet water producers, among others engage in a monthly cleanup exercise, the Assembly might just end up spending half of what it spends annually on waste and sanitation and the rest channeled into other development projects if only authorities do not lineup their pockets with it.

So, if you are a true believer of the Holy Bible or Qur’an both of which preach cleanliness, then stop defecating in gutters, littering the environment and get involve in communal labour in your vicinity. Also, if you belong to any group of traders or business association and has the Tamale Metropolis at heart, this is the time for you to join hands together as true patriots and get rid of all disease causing agents in every nook and cranny.

The writer is a freelance journalist but regularly writes for The Daily Dispatch Newspaper. Views or comments may be sent to him via ziemjoseph@yahoo.com/ +233 207344104.

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph