Ghana risks reoccurrence of June 3 if…

The collection and disposal of waste, particularly solid waste, must improve if a reoccurrence of the June 3, 2015 disaster is to be avoided, the Executive Secretary to the Environmental Services Providers Association, (ESPA), Ms Ama Ofori-Antwi, has said.

Speaking at a meeting with the Chief of Staff, Mr Julius Debrah, and other executive members of association, Ms Ofori-Antwi stated that “if nothing is done to help us improve on waste management, particularly in Accra, the June 3, 2015, disaster might reoccur.”

On June 3, last year, about 150 people died as a result of a flood and fire disaster that occurred at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra. The Odaw drain, which carries run-off water into the Atlantic Ocean through the Korle Lagoon, overflowed its banks because it was choked with garbage.

The executive members, including the First Vice, Mr Stanley Owusu; a Consultant, Mr Ben Laryea, and a member, Nana Ama Adobea, met Mr Debrah to deliberate on some of the challenges facing members of the ESPA.

The ESPA is an umbrella body of waste management companies in Ghana, with a membership of about 90 contractors in the formal sector and over 4,000 in the informal sector.

Responsibility of government
Ms Ofori-Antwi stated that sanitation was the responsibility of the government, and it must, therefore, support the private sector, which had assumed that role, to succeed in keeping the country’s environment clean.

She said members of the ESPA had in the past few years carried out their mandate to the best of their abilities, which had resulted in some parts of the city being clean.

“However, we have not been perfect and that is why we need the government to help us,” she stated.

“The bye-laws of the assemblies clearly state that they should provide landfills and dumping sites but that is not the case. Currently, the waste collectors are expected to even pay for dumping at the final disposal sites,” she added.

She said the fluctuation of the cedi against the world’s major currency, the dollar, was having a toll on the finances of ESPA’s members, because the waste trucks and other equipment needed for effective waste management operations were imported.

Mr Laryea also observed that the waste management sector was one of the few that faced a rigid price control regime, with the assemblies determining how much a contractor should charge at the end of the month, despite the fact that everything is imported at the contractor’s cost.

Support needed
Mr Laryea said it was also in the interest of the government to support the private sector to reduce the burden on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) claims.

“Our work impacts on the health and wellbeing of all those who live in Ghana, and money paid into the NHIS could be reduced if sanitation improves,” he stated.

Mr Stanley Owusu, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of J. Stanley Owusu Company Limited, recommended that the government should act as an intermediary for the private sector to get access to loan facilities from international banks, including the Exim Bank of India, Hungary Exim Bank and European Union Bank, among others.

“It is envisaged that the interest rates from these banks are comparatively lower to those from local banks,” he said.

He also asked the government to, as a matter of urgency, waive tax on imported waste equipment to enable the companies to procure new trucks at reasonable cost to carry out their work.

Madam Adobea said the government needed to completely take over the collection of refuse from low income but densely populated areas such as Glefe, Chorkor and Avenor, since contractors operating in such areas were unable to break even. “Some of the residents in these communities cannot even pay 50 pesewas to a contractor at the end of the month,” she stated.

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