If Ghanaians have been appalled by the conditions at the nation’s biggest slum, Sodom and Gommorah, then they will certainly be shocked by the spectacle of mounting refuse and an emerging ghetto in the heart of the thriving Mallam Market at Dansoman.
The Mallam Market is well-known but the prevailing condition is securely shielded from the public by the ever-rising canopies of traders who have pitched their tents close to the main Mallam-Kaneshie highway at Mallam junction.
It was quite a trip, maneuvering through a pig sty and a cattle ranch in the sprawling community around the market. The way is short but a winding one, requiring the experience of a regular visitor that is if one has to go through the illegal dump from Sakaman and not the market.
Some motorists and commuters may not live at Sakaman and its environs, but they sure will not escape the stench which emanates from the dump as the bulldozer pushes the heap further onto the wetland to pave the way for more.
On approaching from Weija and Kaneshie, motorists can catch the cold from as far away as the Weija Junction and the Sakaman traffic light.
The wetland, which used to be an internationally recognised bird sanctuary, according to reliable sources, has so far received over 350,000 tonnes of garbage since market executives renewed efforts to reclaim it sometime last year.
During the day, an estimated 150 ‘Bola’ taxis and solid waste trucks empty their bellies into the wetland.
The environmental and health dangers are real. Contaminated food, polluted air and underground water, choked drainage system, which could lead to severe flooding, are among the obvious.
Additionally, methane gas, a colourless, odourless, tasteless flammable gas produced whenever organic waste is decomposed by bacterial action is believed to be trapped under the debris, which can also cause fire explosion.
The gas, although non-toxic, can migrate distances under the ground surface and be forced into adjacent buildings.
It is highly flammable and can explode at concentrations between five to 15 per cent.
Some traders told the Daily Graphic that they had developed respiratory infections as a result of inhaling the nauseating smell on a regular basis.
Currently, the main drain from Kaneshie which carries runoffs into the wetland is choked by the pile of rubbish behind the Mallam Market.
Moreover, since the dump is not an engineered one, the course of the leachates (a dark, poisonous liquid from a dump site or landfill) has not been defined. It has, according to Mr. Victor Schaefer, a German who lives at Sakaman, become a poisonous trap to many animals in the area.
According to him, six out of his eight dogs died last year after drinking ground water which had been contaminated by leachates from the dump.
“All my new puppies now have ringworm because the drainage system in the entire area is blocked and the ground water is highly polluted. The dumping must stop immediately, and the heap evacuated to protect residents and patrons of the market from needless diseases and infections,” he stated.
But even as these dangers stare the faces of patrons of the market, residents and traders, the market executive find nothing wrong in the reclamation activity.
According to the Secretary of the Mallam Market Traders Association, Madam Naa Oboshie Torgbor, the association bought the land from the Gbawe Stool about 18 years ago and had since been reclaiming it gradually to get dry land for its members.
She said unlike other markets in the metropolis, the Mallam Market did not receive any support from the government.
Other executive members, including the vice-president, Mr. David Kumi, also expressed support for the dumping of garbage at their backyard.
According to them, both the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were aware of the reclamation activity.
They said the AMA had been supporting them to spray the dump to control flies and mosquitoes.
ESPA wants dump closed
But the Executive Secretary to the Environmental Services Providers Association (ESPA), Ms Ama Ofori Antwi, wants the dump closed now.
“Residents in and around the western parts of Accra, particularly at Dansoman, are sitting on an environmental health time bomb,” she stated after seeing the magnitude of garbage which had been dumped behind the market.
Members of the Accra Chapter of the ESPA, she said, were deeply worried over the situation and urgent steps were needed to halt further dumping and evacuate the heap to safeguard the health of residents and patrons of the market.
Ms Ofori Antwi described the current situation at the Mallam Market as a serious breach of acceptable environmental standards.
“How can we sell food stuffs in such insanitary conditions?” she asked.
“We must not wait for the worst to happen before we look for a solution. The time to act is now,” she stated.
She attributed the dumping to the activities of ‘kaya boola’ boys who were unable to make the 90-km round trip from Accra to the Kpone landfill to dump refuse.
Currently, Accra does not have a landfill and has been depending on the only engineered landfill at Kpone, near Tema.
She said the Chief Executive of Accra, Dr Alfred Oko Vanderpuye, must work to fulfil his promise of providing her members with a landfill and transfer stations to halt the degradation of the wetland at Dansoman.
She appealed to the National Security to intervene to halt further dumping and also appealed to Vice-President Kwesi Amissah Arthur, who has shown interest in sanitation, to help.
At the time of visit, a number of refuse skips belonging to J Stanley Owusu, a waste management company, had been parked near the illegal dump site.
The Daily Graphic, therefore, sought to find out what those containers were meant for.
The Chief Executive Officer, Mr William Stanley Owusu, explained that they were meant to help in the evacuation of the garbage from the wetland at the Mallam Market to a more acceptable place.
He said the company was still waiting for an official communication from the AMA to begin the to work.
“This is a terrible situation which needs to be managed as soon as possible,” he stated.
Essence of a wetland
Wetlands prevent flooding by holding water, just like a sponge.
Published on 26th March, 2015 by Naa Lamiley Bentil – Daily Graphic