Tag Archives: Ghana

Should Ghana ban plastic?

From DW: http://www.dw.com/en/should-ghana-ban-plastic/a-37122891

Ghana is swimming in plastic waste. Should the government introduce a plastic ban? In a guest commentary by climate advocate Joshua Amponsem, he speaks to Ghanaian activists about the future of plastic in the country.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Joshua Amponsem (Reinhold Mangundu)

Plastic waste fills the streets and chokes gutters, rivers and lakes in Ghana’s cities and towns. The problem is so urgent that the country’s government announced plans to impose a partial ban on light plastics in mid-2015. But a backlash amongst business leaders and policy makers forced the government to abandon the plan and instead propose a new law that would force plastic manufacturers to make biodegradable plastics.

The move makes Ghana one of the few countries to commercialize oxo-biodegradable plastics, as they are known. Still, most industries are refusing to comply with the new standards. Save a few businesses such as Ghanaian water firm Special Ice, a majority are still selling water in standard plastic, for instance. As a result, the plastic problem persists.

With plastic manufacturers’ reluctance to make their product biodegradable, is the plastic ban in fact the way to go? It’s a pressing question for environmental activists like myself and I asked it of a number of young active citizens who gathered from all parts of Ghana in January for the first edition of the “Active Citizenship Webinar.” Here are the results.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Müllkippe (Joshua Amponsem)Plastic waste is a huge problem for Ghana. Here polythene bags burn at a dump in Akrofuom

Some believed a plastic ban wouldn’t work. It’s a waste resource that should be utilized and banning it could have an adverse economic impact. Samuel Boakye, a business consultant living in Accra, asked: “How much of our population is able to gain employment from the sale and manufacture of these bags? How would the ban affect such people?” He believes the government must instead increase recycling and help provide necessary capital to facilitate the use of plastic waste for the production of other plastic products like chairs, tables, and bowls.

Speaking as an environmental advocate, I mentioned that employment and the economy could get a boost if plastic bags were banned and replaced with paper and cotton versions. People won’t lose their jobs, they will sell paper and cotton bags instead and we will need more farmers as a result. Furthermore, I explained that in Kumasi, a city in southern, Ghana, cotton bags were successfullly introduced in December ahead of Christmas.

Either way, say environmentally-conscious Ghanaians, the country needs to deal with its plastic problem, as its water bodies are gradually being filled with waste and fishermen sometimes end up with a bumper catch of plastic rather than fish. “Preserving our marine life, such as turtles, is very critical because it can generate more foreign exchange as tourists come in to observe turtles on our beaches at dawn,” Belinda Kulordzi, a history student at the University of Ghana, said. Educating people about the harmful effects of plastic waste is key, she added.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Plastik (Joshua Amponsem)So far nobody in Ghana has come up with a way to deal with waste. Here plastic is disposed of inappropriately

But Kelly Anyomitse, a public health activist and the curator of the Active Citizenship Webinar, highlighted the fact that education will take several years to change the attitude of Ghanaians toward plastics. He asked whether we could rely on education alone, given the extent of pollution and the resulting damage.

Ghana’s plastic problem has persisted for years and so far nobody has managed to come up with a robust approach to managing it nationwide. Ultimately, those taking part in the discussion believe a mix of different approaches is the best way to tackle the problem.

Increasing the price of plastic bags would make them unaffordable and unattractive to many people and would cause a gradual, organic phase out. People would be more likely to opt for cheaper paper bags and more expensive, but long-lasting cotton bags. With nuisance plastic bags more or less gone, existing recycling companies could then focus on collecting and recycling water bottles, leaving us with cities free of light plastic waste.

As active citizens of Ghana, we are hopeful that our nation will place more value in protecting the air, food and water offered to us by Mother Earth and in ensuring quality environmental standards to promote good health and a better life for all Ghanaians.

Joshua Amponsem, is an environmental activist and climate advocate with a degree in Environmental Science. He focuses on youth mobilization for environmental events and advocacy through volunteerism, and social media. While an undergraduate, he founded Green Africa Youth Organization – a non-profit organization, which serves as an advocacy anchor in environmental protection. With strong love for nature, Joshua works for environmental transformation in Africa through leadership and collaboration with like-minded youth activists and organizations across the world.

Five West African Countries Avoids Dirty Fuel from Europe

A number of West African countries have been sourcing fuel from Europe and reports (beginning earlier and mid this year) indicates that these European fuels do not meet the expected emission standards. In Ghana, the issue had risen in public discussions when first discovered and some environmental and health activists had used social media to publicize the issue to raise awareness for better fuel importation into the country.

According to UNEP, last week, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire has introduced strict regulatory standards that will ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels, and better emissions standards, thus effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market. It was noticed that weak regulatory standards in West African countries had open a window for European low standard fuels to penetrate the West African market and could cause ecological and health hazards. These fuels were identified to have higher sulfur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe which contributes significantly to air pollution (reported by the non-governmental organization, Public Eye). Considering that sulfur is a toxin and contributes a lot to global warming as it is a Greenhouse Gas, it has become essential for these nations (vulnerable to climate change) to restrict the use of such fuels.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), these move was taken by the countries to address concerns over vehicle emissions and in an effort to bring safer, cleaner air to more than 250 million people that reside in their region. The head of the UNEP in a statement mentioned that the act practiced by these five nations to strengthen their regulatory standards sends a strong message that they no longer want any dirty fuels from Europe. In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.

Noting that it takes so much resources to clean up pollution, it’s definitely better to stop the pollution from occurring. It must be recognized and commended that these nations are putting their health and the ecology first as air pollution is known to kill millions annually. The head of the UNEP also added that there is a need to urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics.

The UNEP has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, as well as to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.

UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide. When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.

In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030.

 

Earth Day 2016 – No Coal; Our Goal.

On April 22nd, a group of environmental activists gathered in Accra – capital city of Ghana, to campaign against the introduction of coal power plants in Ghana. Prior to the Earth Day event, the organizers of the Street Press Conference on Coal, released a press statement which highlighted their major concerns on the adverse effects of coal on human inhabited locations.

 

On Earth Day, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement – led by Gideon Commey, and Green Africa Youth Organization – led by Tunza ambassador, Joshua Amponsem held a street press conference to educate the public on coal fired power plants, its associated health implications, and ecological impacts.

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For the first time, an environmental street campaign in Ghana attracted foreign journalists and local media houses. The press conference witnessed journalists from China Central Television (CCTV), SET TV from Taiwan, Pulse TV, TV3 in Ghana, Graphic Ghana, and many other local radio stations.

The event commenced with a welcome address from Joshua Amponsem (Tunza Eco-Generation Ambassador), Nat Martin (Canadian Environmental and Human Rights activists) and Gideon Commey (Founder, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement). A press release article on coal power was read out to the general public, following which we took questions from the media and public concerning their understanding and awareness on coal power plants.

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Nat Martin addressing audience at the street press conference on coal.

Most of the questions were geared towards economic stability which will arise if the country possess a constant power supply. However, this argument was disputed by Joshua. He iterated that, power generation from coal is not cheap as presented. Coal waste – particulate matter from the power plants causes health and ecological hazards that could cost the country twice the amount being spent on coal power generation. He also furthered to say, Ghanaians are hungry for constant power supply but the solution is not coal but #renewables.

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Joshua responding to questions.

 

Media houses present at the event asked series of questions concerning the position of the country during COP21 and the current quest to introduce coal into the country. Climate advocate, Gideon Commey, responded that the country’s decision to bring coal to Ghana contradicts with the commitment of global leaders to fight against global warming and climate change.

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Gideon M. Commey answering questions from media.

He mentioned that the President of Ghana, HE John Dramani Mahama, should be mindful of his role as the Co-Chair of a group of 16 influential global figures supporting the UN in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

 

When asked by the media about the next step of action if government does not heed to the protagonism of environmental activists for solar instead of coal, Joshua Amponsem responded that, activists will travel to the proposed coal project community and educate the community on adverse effects of the project they about to receive. Joshua stressed that the ecological impacts of coal fired plants were so high and therefore, as passionate environmental activists, they will push to the limit until renewable energy is considered as the best alternative to fixing Ghana’s energy crisis.

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Joshua Amponsem and fellow activists advocating for ‘No Coal’ in Ghana.

The event ended with a loud campaign song led by guitarist and environmental enthusiast, Seyram Gh, who composed the song during our walk for solar campaign last year.

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Air Pollution in Ghana: Enhancing Public Health through Pollution Reduction.

Waste management is becoming one of the critical issues in Ghana in recent years. Despite the environmental and sanitation policies, waste is currently a public menace in all cities and in Ghana. Following recent incidents in Ghana, such as the cholera outbreak which claimed over 100 lives and the June 6th disaster which claimed about 150 lives – one of the most highly recognized environmental disasters in Ghana, waste management can clearly be noticed as a public hazard which needs immediate attention.

Waste residues gets into contact with human through dermal, inhalation and ingestion. In Ghana, all these points of contact pose a threat to the health of citizens. Inappropriate and indiscriminate waste discharge and disposal in Ghana increases the vulnerability of exposure of people to contaminants. Among the three known ways of human contact with pollutants, the least recognized and prioritized in Ghana is inhalation.

There has been a great effort by Ghana Standard Boards, Environmental Protection Agency and other creditworthy departments to set limits of emissions for some industrial and commercial activities. Regardless of this effort, some industries emissions are unregulated – making it difficult to monitor. Soap making, wood processing and chemical storage facilities usually add to air pollution in communities. Faulty cars freely ride on our roads releasing abnormal exhaust fumes. Wood dust, ash and dust from road construction in air is common in Ghana. These pollutants pose a health risk, potentially induce the formation of acid rain and impart on climate change.

Domestic waste in Ghana are usually dumped off at a designated site provided by environmental health officers in the district or community – mostly dumping refuse attracts a fee. With the recent increase in the usage of plastics, people produce more waste than usual and try to escape the fee of dumping their rubbish. With even the few who continuously abide by law and dump at the right place, these designated sites usually overfill before their assigned time of processing or transfer to a landfill site due to increase in waste. When this happens, community folks have it as a habit of handling waste inappropriately – dumping in bushes, drainage systems and water bodies or commonly burning it openly in public which generates an unpleasant smelling air in the environment. With low literacy, most community dwellers are ignorant about the health implications of inhaling such polluted air.

It is known by few that open burning of refuse is unlawful, it still remain as one of the most contributing causes of air pollution in Ghana. Care takers at designated dumping site usually set fire to the “mountain” of waste to reduce its volume and enhance collection of waste of the subsequent days. However this pose a serious threat to human health, particularly, areas closer to these dumping sites. The refuse do not burn rapidly due to its moist and higher percentage of organic by-products. A continuous bad-smelling thick concentrated smoke then becomes the output of such exercise – flowing together with the direction wind towards inhabited areas. As a result, the air in nearby communities become polluted and hazardous for inhalation. Despite the bad smell of the site and the smog, inhabitants rarely complain and usually inhale comfortably.

In farming communities, agricultural waste such as rice husks are being burnt not disposed. Such products contain high carbon contents and thus, burning it releases carbon into the atmosphere which displaces oxygen content in the atmosphere. High rate of carbon inhalation also reduces the amount of haemoglobin available for carrying oxygen to the body tissue of humans which causes oxygen deficiency in body tissues. Aside the health implications, these pollutants arising from refuse burning, emissions from factories, wood dust and other diffuse sources greatly contribute to the formation of secondary pollutants in the atmosphere and depletion of the ozone layer.

There are no strong advocates and campaign against open incineration of waste and health implications of unregulated emissions eject into the atmosphere in Ghana. Though responsible agencies occasionally prosecute culprits under few circumstances, there is an urgent need for advocacy against such domestic and industrialized practices which pollutes the air we breathe and as well aid in the reduction of ozone depletion.