Regional News Fri, 3 Mar 2006

Environment Ministry, CSIR to solve Accra's faeces disposal problems

Accra, March 3, GNA - The Ministry of Environment and Science (MES), the Greater Accra Regional Administration and other relevant authorities would collaborate with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to end the practice where untreated human excreta are emptied into the sea in Accra.

They have accordingly, resolved to seek the appropriate technology and funding to develop the excreta into fertiliser for agricultural purposes and mutane gas for fuelling domestic and light industrial activities.

Environment Minister, Ms Christine Churcher and the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I.C. Quaye announced this when they visited the site of the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP) as part of activities to mark Africa Environment Day, which falls today. Many tanks of human excreta are reportedly dumped daily into the sea along Korle Gonno beach because the capital's sewerage system is primitive and cover only a limited area.

Ironically, the dumping site, which is close to the KLERP, is called 'Lavender Hill' because of the stench of putrefaction that permanently hangs in the air.

Ms Churcher said funding modern sewerage systems had been a long-standing challenge that needed a concerted approach to address the environmental and health risks.

Responding to a question about whether it was feasible to develop the faeces into biomass for profitable ventures as was done years back for Apollonia, Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Deputy Director-General of CSIR, said the outfit had conducted several studies on biomass. "CSIR, therefore, has the expertise and capacity to execute the projects. All we need is to be challenged and allocated the funds and logistics."

At the KLERP site, the Project Manager, Mr Sakkie le Roux told the delegation that though the Project was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of the March 2006, it had become necessary to re-clean the Odaw River and other canals upstream and re-dredge portions of the lagoon to make the project functional and sustainable.

His company, the International Marine and Dredging Consultants (IMDC), which is the contractor, had therefore, submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Works and Housing for additional funding for the job, he said.

The extra work would take about six months.

The Company, he said, also wanted the Government to mount an intensive campaign to stop people from dumping waste into the Odaw River and also to relocate the residents of Sodom and Gomorra, whose location near the site threatened its sustainability.

Mr Roux explained that the extra work was required because silt built up again in the Odaw Canal when the second phase of the project was delayed for about one and half years after the first stage was completed.

Under the first phase, which started in 2000, about 1.3 million cubic metres of material was dredged and disposed of from the upper and lower parts of the lagoon.

Swamps were also removed to improve floodwater flow, while storm water canals were created for the Odaw, Kaneshie and Agbogboshie rivers. The canals were realigned and excavated and given slope protection on the banks and bottom.

The 89-million dollar-project sponsored jointly by the Kuwaiti and OPEC Funds and the Government aims at restoring the Korle Lagoon to its original form to support aquatic life, tourism and navigation by boats. It also aims at preventing flooding of Accra as 80 per cent of liquid waste in the Metropolis emptied into the Lagoon through the Odaw and other water bodies.

Under Phase Two, an interceptor was built to trap dry weather flow and prevent the polluted water from entering the environmentally sensitive Lagoon, Mr Roux said.

A pump station, with the capacity of two cubic metres per second has also been built to pump polluted water for treatment before releasing it into the Lagoon. The station has screens to remove debris and prevent blockage of the outfall.

Over the past year, Mr Roux said, staff of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, including mechanical and electrical engineers, have been trained to man the pump station and to maintain the lagoon on completion.

The Engineer said the challenge now was to de-silt the canals and Lagoon again so that the interceptor would permanently replace the dykes and storm water bypass, which have been used as temporary solutions.

"When the project is completed, people can use small boats on the Lagoon for fishing, for leisure or to watch birds," he stressed. "But, if Ghana wants to use the Lagoon for transportation, further feasibility studies can be conducted to create the course and the requisite bridges to accommodate bigger boats."

Ghana is focusing the celebration of the day on the environmental sensitivity and significance of the drainage system of the Odaw River and Korle Lagoon.

Other polluted water bodies in the districts would also receive attention.

The theme for the Day is: "Zero Littering; The Way to Healthy Living."

Africa Environment Day was proclaimed by the Council of Ministers of the African Union during its 76th Summit held in Durban, South Africa, in July 2002.

Source: GNA