Discussants at a plastic waste management debate have called for an urgent review of the country’s waste management by-laws to help maintain environmental cleanliness in the country’s cities, which has remained a daunting task for local authorities over the years.
They agreed that despite all efforts, the country simply has not found above-average solutions to waste management; be it solid, liquid, hazardous or even radioactive materials.
The discussants, Dr. Edward Larbi-Siaw, Tax Policy Adviser at the Ministry of Finance; Mrs. Ama Ofori-Antwi, Executive Secretary of Environmental Services Providers Association; and Mr. Quaranchie Adama-Tettey, Project Coordinator, Plastic Water Collectors Association, made this known in Accra at a panel discussion organised by the Ghana Journalist Association’s Business Advocate programme.
Aimed at exploring some of the causes for the country’s environmental sanitation policy dilemma and considering the possible way forward, the programme was supported by the Business Sector Advocacy Fund (BUSAC), Denmark Embassy and the United States Agency for International Development.
Dr. Larbi-Siaw disclosed government has so far received GH¢44.3million from the waste management fund between 2011 and 2014, and that the money is yet to be disbursed to the various service providers to enable them to manage waste in an effective and efficient manner, because the regulations to govern its operations are not ready.
He was optimistic that by the end of 2016 the required legal regulations and document on disbursement modalities will have been developed to ensure onward transfer of the funds to service providers in waste management.
Dr. Larbi-Siaw explained that when the legal documentation is finalised for disbursement, it will follow the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund’s structure.
“Let me assure our stakeholders that government is committed in giving out the money. We want to increase productivity in the economy.
“The modalitieswill be spelt out and we are even thinking about migrating onto the green fund, and they should rely on government -- both Ministry of Finance and Local Government -- for our highest support.”
He explained that waste management is a shared responsibility and urged Ghanaians to keep their surroundings clean. “Water scarcity or pollution means fish stocks will reduce, soil degradation reduces yields and output, and deforestation pushes you near to desert conditions. This is why it is in the interests of government to ensure that environmental cleanliness is in place.
“If we get enough funding the general public awareness will be enhanced, which will require capacity development, information sharing, education and communication,” he stated.
Mr. Adama-Tettey confirmed working with some city authorities and dealing with people based on the waste management by-laws; and said that in 2007 city authorities introduced a programme on plastic waste to promote easy collection for recycling.
This, he said, has grown over time and generated a lot of income and employment for a lot of Ghanaians, with minor waste collectors numbering over 7,000; but it has observed some major challenges and cost implications because of lacking logistics.
Commenting on punitive measures under the by-laws, he indicated that the current fine of GH¢300 or in default six months imprisonment is outrageous -- but he suggested the inclusion of Community Service as a penalty or sentence on conviction for open littering, which would be much easier to enforce and “I trust that the review could deal with some of the challenges”.
Ofori-Antwi called for effective enforcement of the sanitation laws: “We need enforcement for the sanitation by-laws. It’s illegal to openly dump refuse, practice open defecation, littering, burning refuse, and refusing to subscribe to service providers in waste management. So we need to enforce and do a lot of education”.
She called for strengthening the assemblies which have the power to enforce, adding that for service providers the delay in paying for services rendered is a bane that threatens their survival.
She explained that sanitation should be embedded in the property rate so that the service provider will not go from house to house to collect debts.
“This should be backed by policy and be embedded in an existing system. This policy dimension is required to salvage the mess we are in now,” she remarked.