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Challenges of private participation in waste management

By: Naa Lamiley Bentil

It has become clear over the years that private participation in waste management is one of the major reasons a level of cleanliness is spotted in parts of the country, particularly, the national capital, Accra.

However, it has also become imperative that the interest of the private sector is protected to ensure that they remain in business and continue to deliver one of the most critical services to health-environmental sanitation to keep more Ghanaians out of the consulting rooms of medical establishments.

Since the past decade, the private sector has been at the forefront of collecting and hauling refuse from various parts of the capital to approved landfills and dumping sites.

It is also the private sector that has taken over the management of landfills across various districts within the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA).

 Sanitation on health

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common diseases in the country include cholera, typhoid and malaria, which have direct linkage to poor environmental sanitation.

Last year, the government spent a whopping GH¢1.077 billion on health insurance claims.

According to the Deputy Director for Communications, National Health Insurance Authority, Mr Selorm Adonoo, about 50 per cent of the claims were for malaria treatment, a disease largely induced by poor sanitation conditions, particularly choked drains.

Additionally, changes in climatic conditions (climate change), which result in severe droughts or floods have ensured that Ghanaians paid the full price for neglecting the environment. What quickly comes to mind is the June 3, 2015 fire, flood disaster which occurred at the Goil Filling Station at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra during which over 150 people died.

 Choked canals, drains

The Odaw drain, which serves as a major receptacle for run-off from communities upstream the river such as Avenor, Caprice and Lapaz was choked with garbage, weeds and silt such that it was unable to serve its intended purpose. The result was the regrettable disaster that occurred. The channel is expected to carry all the rainwater into the Korle Lagoon and finally into the sea.

The Odaw drain, then the Odaw River, was reconstructed with funding from the World Bank in 1992 as part of the city’s flood prevention interventions.  But, obviously, it has not achieved the target of preventing floods from sweeping across the communities.

 Effects of poor sanitation on drains

Poor sanitation practices such as illegal dumping of refuse and indiscriminate littering have been significant factors leading to the constant siltation of the river, much to the chagrin of the World Bank that spent about $10 million on the project.

Aside this, clearing the Odaw of silt has become a drain on the government; a mission nearly impossible, given the rather poor sanitation practices.

Even though the Odaw gives the perfect picture of Accra’s poor sanitation practices, a cursory look into other minor drains; primary and secondary sends the same signal.

The least said about the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP), the better.

The government spent nearly $100 million between 2001 and 2005 and yet, the siltation of the lagoon, which hitherto provided fresh fish for the people of Korle-Gonno and beyond, is all time bad.

A civil engineer, then a consultant on the KLERP project, Mr Godfrey Ewool, observed that, “since the practice of, waste disposal in drains had not been tackled, we do not have a dog’s chance of keeping the lagoon free from filth. There have been attempts to link the problem to a slum community simply because it happens to be closest to the site. Yes, that community may be part of the problem but certainly not the main contributors”, he said.

The lagoon had first been dredged between 1961 and 1964, but had reverted to its polluted status at the time the project was proposed, “Because we have not paid enough attention to solid waste management”, he explained.

It is for these reasons that the government must support the private sector to provide standard waste management services to the citizenry to ensure that indiscriminate dumping and littering of refuse is reduced to significant limits.

 Waiver on sanitation equipment

Members of the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) say the current waste management arrangement has not been favourable, particularly for contractors operating in low- income areas such as Chorkor and Avenor.

However, in order to make a visible impact on the sanitation situation in the country, especially Accra, where about 3,000 tonnes of garbage is generated on a daily basis, a tax waiver on imported sanitation equipment is necessary.

The Executive Secretary to the ESPA, Ms Ama Ofori Antwi, observes that her members could not deliver what residents expected of them because they were reeling under severe financial hiccups.

“To promote environmental sanitation, the government needs to give ESPA members a tax waiver when they import sanitation equipment such as compactors, skips, cesspit emptiers, haulage trucks, and granules for the production of litter bins into this country”, she stressed.

Some members of ESPA are for instance, importing granules to produce waste bins as part of a national campaign to discourage indiscriminate littering of refuse, she stated.

 Current unsustainable system

“The current system being run by ESPA members is unsustainable, and the government needs to support us”, she further stated.

ESPA members entered into a Fee and Performance Based contract with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) about five years ago during, which the assembly ‘shirked’ virtually all its obligation on sanitation to the private sector.

Under that contract, is no the Polluter Pays Principle, the AMA zoned Accra into nine, and contractors who won the bids to operate in those zones were required to;

  • Register households at their own cost
  • Provide litter bins to each household
  • Collect garbage at least once a week depending on the area
  • Haul garbage to final disposal site at Kpone and to other landfill or dumping sites.
  • Collect fees fixed by the AMA at the end of the month.

“All these require enormous capital injection, yet, the AMA will not spend even a quarter of its revenue to subsidise refuse collected in low income areas such as Chorkor, and Avenor. It is, therefore, difficult for contractors in such areas to break even”, she stated.

She said it was time the government considered environmental sanitation financing in its budget, explaining that such a move had become necessary since ESPA members rendered social services which fees were determined by the assemblies.

 Government’s position

The Director of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate, Mr Lenason Demedeme, observed that with the efforts of the private sector, and those of the district assemblies, the sanitation situation had improved in recent years.

“The involvement of the private sector in waste management has brought relief, especially in the metropolitan areas of Accra, Kumasi, Tema and Takoradi where residents are ready to pay for the services.”

Mr Demedeme conceded that waste management services required enormous capital injection, and contractors therefore, required the support of the government to succeed.

He agreed that waste contractors needed tax rebate, a subject he had personally written many letters.

“With the high cost of importing these equipment, I think it is only fair that we support them with a tax waiver”, he stressed.

– See more at: http://graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/53538-challenges-of-private-participation-in-waste-management.html#sthash.WGzC7Lzg.dpuf

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