Regional News Sun, 7 Jul 2013

Accra is sitting on a waste time bomb

Ghana’s capital is sitting on a waste time bomb, with waste disposal companies saying they have no dump sites for almost 2,500 tons of rubbish produced daily in Accra.

This has led to the late collection of garbage produced from homes and market places. There are heaps of garbage piled in front of homes and residential areas which have been left unattended mainly because the trucks, when loaded, do not really have a destination for dumping in mind.

The Weekend Globe interviewed some households around Adabraka, where Nana Ama, a resident in Adabraka, said: “I thought it was the waste collectors who were being lazy. For about three days now, there were heaps of garbage on almost all the streets and I know they come to collect them on Tuesday, but it’s been there for the past three days. The same thing happened last week too and they came for it on Friday instead.”

This is causing fear and panic within some settler communities here in Accra, as residents have started expressing fears that an epidemic of disease may break out if a quick and long term solution is not found to the problem.

“I want to confirm that we still lack a final disposal or dump site for the Accra Metropolis” said Samuel Kpodo, the deputy director of waste management at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).

However, he added that the AMA was “doing our best to manage it.”

“There are plans to acquire land for the construction of an engineered landfill site,” he said. “Our trucks have been at Tema, which is about 32 kilometres from the city centre, and due to the haulage and associated problems of lifting the waste from the city centre, or from Accra to Tema, we are having some waste accumulated in our markets and lorry parks.”

“The problem”, he said, “started soon after there was public agitation about our dump site at Achimota. Out of the public outcry, we had to move from Achimota to Tema. We were using Achimota, which was a close place to us so the situation was ok but now we had to shut it down.”

Already, there are reports that the engineered landfill site at Tema is overstretched, considering the increase in the number of trucks that dump refuse on it now. Currently about 100 trucks are estimated to be dumping at the Tema landfill site daily, up from the initial 40 to about 50.

Now, all the waste from Accra is sent to Tema, bringing in a total of about 1,200 tons of waste dumped there and there are fears it might not last for the 15 years life span expectancy.

Some of the waste management companies engaged in clearing the filth from the city, including Zoomlion, Stanley Owusu, and Asadu Royal Waste, among others, have given indications that the lack of a proper dump site is posing serious constraints to their efforts to rid the main city of excess garbage. These complaints follow the closure of one of the Achimota landfill site, one of the main dumping sites in the capital.

The most popular waste dumping location in Accra, the Oblogo landfill site, was recently closed to the dumping of waste and converted into a compost site. This was after residents in and around Oblogo demonstrated for years to draw the government’s attention to their plight of living close to the site.

The implications of the lack of a dump site are clearly already taking its toll: A trip taken by The Weekend Globe round some of the high-class residential areas within Accra revealed heaps of uncollected rubbish in random areas.

The less said about the market areas, the better. It is a sore sight considering the fact that food stuff and cooked food are sold sometimes right next to these heaps of garbage.

“Although I have not lost any customers yet, I think something should be done about it,” said Nana, a rice & stew seller at the Adabraka market. “Just yesterday, three of us were discussing the recent delays in the collection of the rubbish. Little did we know that it was because they have closed the main dumping site.”

Another market woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Now I can’t sell around this place, and I have decided to sell my food by moving around to my customers. One of them said he didn’t like the place I was stationed at, so I should do something about it. If the authorities act now, I would come back. But, until then, hmm.”

Aunty Sarah, a shop keeper, also said, “I heard on the radio that the Achimota landfill site had been closed, but I didn’t know that that it would affect us here. There is a growing stench from the pile of rubbish over there (pointing in a particular direction) and the worst part is the liquid that is seeping from it; smells really bad. Sometimes, days after the rubbish has been cleared, the stench lingers for some days before it eventually dies down. Something must be done about it quickly.”

The story was no different at some areas in and around Adenta and East Legon, where the residents looked on helpless as the mountain of garbage grew right in front of their houses.

At this rate, there is a possibility that people will start dumping waste into gutters and drains, and the long term effects of that are clear: Gutters get choked and will certainly get worse when the rains set in. It is not as if this practise of tossing garbage in gutters is not already ongoing, but the situation could be worse if it gets out of hand.

The dangers of a cholera pandemic are lurking, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting people who would lose their guard in these trying times. Every Ghanaian needs to be on red alert as the situation is “managed” by authorities.

For the long term, however, some waste management experts are proposing that land is made available for the construction of more compost or engineered landfill sites to recycle the waste.

“Zoomlion is facing the challenge head on, that is why we have set up the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant that is located at Adjinkotoku,” Peter Dagadu, Head of Landfill Unit at Zoomlion, the leading waste management company in Ghana, told The Weekend Globe. “It is currently handling a portion of waste generated in the city of Accra and the surrounding municipalities.”

“It adds value to the waste that is collected, by recycling it or converting it into compost and this can be used as an alternative to fertiliser in the horticultural or agricultural sector, so we are adding value to waste that is being collected in Accra.”

“Apart from that we are also recovering other valuables in the waste that is collected. Various fractions of plastic are being recovered and sold to people downstream, that are recycling these materials into other useful products for the country. We are starting a similar project in Kumasi and running pilots in other parts of the country.”
Source: The Weekend Globe