Tamale faecal matter pond poses health threat

Tamale faecal matter pond poses health threat

RESIDENTS in parts of Tamale in the Northern Region are troubled that proximity of a liquid waste pond to a landfill site could spark a major health catastrophe. The residents say the Gbalahi Facultative Pond at the landfill site is a disaster in waiting in the event of spillage, especially as the rainy season approaches. During a recent visit to Tamale, I observed that even though some houses had toilet facilities, many people still preferred to engage in what they call “free ranging” or open defecation.

Typically, the culprits of this act creep out at night and defecate around houses in their vicinity. The ugly side of this practice is revealed, when the early rains produced an offensive and foul stench as a result of the open defecation. The Metropolitan Assembly under the leadership of Alhaji Iddrissu Mussah (Superior) has taken action against residents who engage in this unlawful practice. Recently, due to organised resistance by some lawless persons, the Assembly had to enlist the help of the police and the military for a joint swoop – arresting those caught openly defecating and smoking suspicious substances within the metropolis, and subsequently handing them deterrent punishments. These actions notwithstanding, the practice is back in full gear with the smoking of narcotic substances and open defecation in forest reserves in Tamale.

The Metropolitan Assembly will need to get ruthless in the enforcement of sanitation laws and effect more arrests at suburbs with forests which have gained notoriety for the misbehaviour, including Gumani, Choggu, NOBISCO, TAMASCO and Nyohini among others. A key strategy the Assembly has to employ will be household monitoring in order to curb particularly the open defection menace in the fast developing regional capital. The need for action against open defecation is more magnified by statements from residents who were very uncomfortable with the rate at which some liquid waste dumpsites overflow and spill their contents into nearby communities. Some of these residents disclosed that during the rainy season, there are spills from about seven sewerage ponds dotted in the area.

These spills combined with the rampant open defecation render them, especially children, vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. As a means to end this anomaly, city authorities believe that the construction of a liquid waste treatment plant can no longer wait as rapid population growth has triggered a colossal surge in waste generation especially liquid waste. A modern waste water treatment system will end the fear of any spillages from the ponds and the consequent dangers to health. Mr Stephen Yaro is the Regional Manager of Waste Landfills Company Limited, the entity which manages the landfill. He is directly responsible for the supervision of the Tamale/Gbalahi landfill. He did not mince words when he stated the current approach to managing waste especially liquid waste is gradually fading out as there are modern simple technologies that have less hazards which must be employed to solve the current waste problems. Mr Yaro observed the current approach was appropriate only for the municipal and district assemblies but not regional capitals where liquid waste generation was so high. Mr James Oswald Nyaaba Amalgo is a forester who is resident in the area.

He said a liquid waste treatment plant which uses faecal matter to generate charcoal for cooking purposes like the Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited plant near Korle- Bu will stop the indiscriminate felling of trees for fuel wood which has consistently brought about land degradation in the already deforested area. He was of the view that in the western world, felling of trees for fuel wood does not come to mind again because of technological advancement and called on the government to urgently adopt such technologies to save people from dying as a result of the lack of proper treatment of various waste and the ecosystems which is in their sorry state at the moment. Government together with Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited (SSGL) has given waste water treatment a facelift in Accra by converting the 110-year-old wellknown Lavender Hill problem of faecal matter dislodgement directly into the sea, into an ultra-modern liquid waste treatment plant which receives over 80 per cent of all faecal matter in Accra for treatment.

It treats sludge water, whereas faecal matter is turned into charcoal for household use. Recently it was announced that the government in collaboration with SSGL cut the sod for the construction of a 13-million-euro waste-water treatment plant in Kumasi with its Hungarian partners, PureCo Limited, to save the face of the Garden City of sub-Saharan Africa. In the same spirit, it will be extremely useful for the government to replicate that partnership by engaging SSGL and partners to consider siting a similar plant in Tamale. The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, by declaring his intention to make Ghana clean before his exit is a clear determination to not only clean Ghana but also ensure that critical sanitation challenges such as liquid waste and environmental degradation are tackled. Indeed, his government has acted in a manner that is indicative of the fact that it wants to fight the menace of waste.

It has strategically been ensuring the provision of more toilet facilities in the urban centres coupled with the creation of a sanitation and water resource ministry. What is expected now is that the government through the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA) must enforce the sanitation laws to ensure that our cities are always clean. The Ghana Environmental Sanitation Policy states that all waste deposited in the public domain shall be the property of the District Assembly. The District Assembly may also direct generators of waste to dispose of or surrender such waste to the District Assembly in a manner and at such times and places as may be approved by the District Assembly. The District Assemblies shall ensure the availability of adequate sites for present and future storage, treatment and disposal of waste by identifying, acquiring, demarcating and protecting suitable areas. The heart-breaking aspect is that the assemblies apply minimal force to executing this mandate.

The axe, once again, falls on the government through the relevant structures to encourage the MMDAs to apply themselves with diligence in executing this mandate. If the private sector such as Zoomlion and others are willing to support the course of proper waste management and environmental sanitation, then the government will have to take a second look at ensuring that ample support is given to such organisations to help curb the waste menace in Ghana. • The writer is a Development Communications Expert based in Accra, Ghana


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