It is a conventional practice in our country to see people ‘deprive’ waste of where they should belong – the bin. As a result, our streets and drains are constantly at war with plastics and other waste materials that fight for space at places where they do not belong. This situation has seen a global interest due to some of its adverse effects.
The UN Habitat has published a study on the perennial floods in the country’s capital – The Three-Dimensional Causes of Flooding in Accra, Ghana. The study implicated poor flows in drainage caused by littering as one of the major causes of the perennial floods. It is therefore crucial that we critically analyze the effects and also bring to light some relevant and timeless solutions to the poor sanitation across the country caused by littering.
The rate at which people throw rubbish about in most of Ghana’s cosmopolitan cities is alarming. The situation escalates when the items being littered are plastic bags or wrappers which are non-biodegradable. I fear in the next few decades, our litters will produce plastic streets. In my recent visit to Kejetia in Kumasi, I witnessed both commercial vehicle passengers and private car drivers throw water sachets, ice- cream wrappers, among other plastic wastes freely from their vehicles into the gutters and onto the streets. On one occasion, a gentleman who shot a half full water sachet walked back to kick it into the drain when he realized the sachet fell few meters from it. It is disheartening to see this as almost all these people are fully knowledgeable about the consequences of their actions to their health, safety and ecology of the country.
The tremendous effect littering has on the country are undisputable. Most of the food joints patronized by the average Ghanaian are located few meters away from drains that are choked with garbage and food debris. The consequence of this that foods are infected with germs and other bacteria that cause food poisoning and its accompanying faeco-oral infections like dysentery, cholera and typhoid.
Secondly, litters in public places are all pulled along the streets into our gutters during heavy downpours. This prevents running waters from moving freely through the drains. As a result, the waters constantly overflow the banks of the gutters and rush into shops and buildings, causing floods. These floods have claimed many lives over the years and destroyed properties worth billions. On 3rd June, 2016, in Accra, GhanaWeb reported that 200 lives were lost to the flood and oil explosion. Lastly, the degradation our environment faces as a result of the improper disposal of refuse, mainly plastic waste, cannot be overemphasized.
I believe in curbing this pestilence of littering, we could consider the following suggestions;
- The Metropolitan and Municipal Assemblies should provide waste bins at all vantage points of the city. Thus, there would be no excuse for throwing litters around public places.
- Laws should be enacted for food vendors and traders to provide waste bins at their work places.
- There should be a civic education on the severity of the effects of littering and how we can avoid them.
- Punitive measures should be instituted against persons who are caught littering to deter others from doing same.
- Regular sanitation exercises and campaigns should be organised to keep the city clean.
- There should be waste segregation, i.e., special bins should be designed to collect plastic waste for recycling purposes.
I believe when we are all conscious about the fact that the sanity of our streets is our responsibility and not just the government and local assemblies, our blames will be less and our actions to ensure a clean environment will be enormous. Ghana is our responsibility. Let us all help keep Ghana clean. Use a waste bin now!
The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism