Ghana in general and Accra in particular suffer from poor public sanitation. Refuse is scattered across most of the capital city’s streets and seriously impacts public health.
The National Sanitation Taskforce was inaugurated to address these problems through a series of clean up days targeting dirty areas, the establishment of the private waste collection entity called Zoom Alliance, an anti-littering ad campaign, and the distribution of household waste containers as well as larger public waste containers and trash bags. An engineered landfill is being constructed as are several waste separation plants, and Local Government Minister Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo has called on assemblies to prosecute more sanitation offenses and on judiciaries to establish more sanitation courts.
Part one of this article examined and analyzed the execution of some of these policies. Part two will address the remainder.
Waste separation facilities and the engineered landfill
The commissioning of an engineered landfill in Kpong, which Ofosu-Ampofo says will contain waste using a more scientific approach to minimize environmental impact, will be a major facet of the work of the Taskforce. Construction finished recently on the $12.5 million facility, one of the biggest in the country, and the Minister says that its staff are currently being trained and that it should be operational soon.
The landfill is expected to handle waste from Tema Metropolis, Kpong, Ledzokuku Krowor, Ashaiman, and other nearby neighborhoods, greatly reducing the burden on the Accra landfills that currently handle waste from these areas.
While the landfill is likely to be one of the great successes of the National Sanitation Taskforce, its construction began well before the Taskforce came into existence.
In his September interview on Joy FM, Ofosu-Ampofo also mentioned the construction of new waste separation facilities that would separate liquid and solid waste as well as recyclable and compostable materials.
In my October interview with the Minister, I ran out of time before I could ask for further information about these plants, including whether or not they also predate the Taskforce.
Speaking generally, recycling and composting are laudable practices because they reduce the volume of trash in landfills, slow the depletion of natural resources, and can even boost agricultural production.
Zoom Alliance is a new company created to act as a private sector Taskforce partner that will also work with existing waste collection companies to help them fully serve their clients.
In addition to overseeing clean up exercises, the Alliance’s major public duty is refuse heap evacuation, a programme targeting 30 strategic locations where communities have been dumping waste. The Alliance is to clear the heaps, spray the areas with disinfectant, and install one or more waste receptacles depending on the size of the heap.
In our October 22nd interview, Alliance Operations Director Johannes Danso said that of the 30 sites, nine had been cleared and he expected the rest to be finished by the year’s end.
As for its private sector responsibilities, the Alliance is to pick up the slack for other waste collection companies that are not equipped to service all the households in the areas for which they have contracts. Zoom Alliance shares its revenues with these companies because they originally won the contracts.
To service these areas, Zoom Alliance has tracker-equipped trucks that electronically record the trucks’ movements, allowing the company to keep records of service delivery and to prevent drivers from making extra money by collecting waste from non-clients.
Zoom Alliance has also introduced a variety of new, more convenient payment options including mobile money, an e-card, and a door to door payment collection service that registers payments electronically and automatically issues receipts.
Unlike Zoom Alliance’s public duties, Danso expects these private sector activities to be ongoing and continue into 2013, after the presidential election.
More pressure, more courts
Under the auspices of the initiative, Ofosu-Ampofo has repeatedly called for an increase in sanitation related fines and prosecution as well as the establishment of more sanitation courts, urging others to join him in clamoring for these changes.
As it is, AMA (Accra Metropolitan Assembly) Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are already charged with the time consuming task of inspecting 5 houses every day to ensure sanitation code compliance, so it’s unclear how much more they can do.
Dr. Simpson Anim Boateng, Director of the AMA’s Metropolitan Public Health Department, said that the whole of Accra is served by about 130 EHOs, only six of whom are responsible for the Ablekuma South sub metro, home to 700,000 residents.
Considering the scale of the task at hand and the relatively small size of the staff charged with handling it, it seems unlikely that simply telling these EHOs to work harder will have any effect on urban hygiene.
As for the sanitation courts, there are currently three serving Accra, all of which predate the Taskforce but were established during the Atta Mills presidency.
The Abeka Lapaz Sanitation Court magistrate, His Lordship Emmanuel Nana Antwi-Barima, said that the case load in these courts is not overwhelming, and that rather than establishing more courts, the Taskforce should focus on bringing more cases to the existing courts.
He added that Sanitation Court judges are not invited to Taskforce meetings and thus their experiences and insights cannot inform Taskforce strategies.
The magistrate also complained that while the Taskforce is talking about establishing new courts, the AMA has yet to find him adequate housing and since relocating to his current post in February, he has been using his salary to pay hotel fees. In October, the office of Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpuye granted him an allowance of GH¢5,000 for two years, half the amount that he had requested.
All in all, it’s unclear what kind of lasting effect this campaign will have on Ghana’s public hygiene.
One of the programme’s most promising features is the establishment of Zoom Alliance, which should improve household waste collection by supplementing the efforts of existing waste companies.
The Kpong landfill and the waste separation facilities will no doubt make a big impact once they become operational, but again, the Taskforce did not establish the landfill, it adopted it.
Any waste containers that Zoom Alliance distributes, if indeed it distributes them, have the potential to make a lasting dent in the public sanitation problem. However, this all depends on how often their contents will be emptied, a variable largely beyond the control of the Taskforce, which will only operate through the end of 2012.
The sanitation exercises can temporarily clear neighborhoods of waste, but as with the Taskforce’s ad campaign, I doubt these clean up days’ ability to affect a widespread social awakening on public hygiene issues.
It’s fair to say that the Taskforce has invested much of its energy and resources in high profile campaigns like flashy clean up exercises, widely broadcast commercials, and calls for the stricter enforcement of existing laws.
The effect is that while the Taskforce fails to adequately address problems like a lack of Health Officers and lax public attitudes towards littering, the ruling NDC gets an opportunity to advertise its dedication to public hygiene as the election draws near.