Friday, December 10, 2010

Reducing Waste Can Help Combat Climate Change, Increase Access to Energy - Report


Cutting emissions from the global waste sector, including the potent greenhouse gas methane, could play a part in combating climate change, says a new United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) report .
The report, Waste and Climate Change: Global Trends and Strategy Framework, which was prepared by the UNEP’s International Environmental Technology Centre based in Japan, examines the contribution the waste sector can make in the fight against climate change and suggest a strategy for increasing this contribution.
It lists three main areas in which greenhouse gas (GHG) savings can be made in the waste sector as reduction of the amount of primary materials used in manufacturing through waste avoidance and material recovery through recycling (avoiding the GHG emissions from the energy used to extract or produce the primary materials), producing energy from waste to replace energy from fossil fuels and storing carbon in landfills and through the application of compost to soils.
Although the waste management sector is contributing 3-5 per cent of global man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equal to around the current emissions from international aviation and shipping, according to some estimates, the report says the waste sector is in a strong position to move from being an emissions source to being a major emissions saver, in part by harvesting the methane from rubbish tips for fuel and electricity generation.
According to a statement announcing the new findings, in doing so the sector can play a role in bridging the gap between where emissions need to be in 2020 and where emissions are heading under the various pledges associated with the 2009 Copenhagen Accord.
Meanwhile, the recent Emissions Gap Report, presented in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun by UNEP and researchers from 25 modelling centres, says a best-case scenario would see emissions fall to around 49 gigatonnes (Gt) of C02 equivalent, if the Copenhagen pledges are fully implemented.
Also, scientists estimate that emissions need to be as low as 44 Gt in 10 years’ time to stand a good chance of keeping a 21st century temperature rise to under 2°C.
The statement posits that accelerated action on C02 emissions will be key to bridging this 5 Gt gap. But this could be assisted by greater action on a range of non-C02 pollutants ranging from black carbon and nitrogen compounds to methane.
In his comments on the new findings, Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director and Under Secretary General of the UN said “Every avenue, every opportunity and every option for cutting greenhouse gases needs to be brought into play if the world is to combat dangerous climate change and set the stage for a transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy urgently needed in the 21st century.”
He added that “The waste sector is already acting to minimise the impacts of potentially potent greenhouse gases like methane, but this is often done on a country-by-country basis,” continuing that “The time is ripe to scale up and deliver a far more coordinated and global response, especially in respect to developing economies.”
He says this offers multiple benefits ranging from curbing greenhouse gas emissions to generating new green jobs and increased access to energy from waste-into-electricity projects.
On her part, the Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, Ms. Katharina Kummer Peiry, who supported the Waste and Climate Change report said: "I welcome this report as a basis for addressing the ways in which waste management can help combat climate change, an important issue that has so far been underestimated. The Secretariat looks forward to joining forces with others in strengthening this link through the environmentally sound management of waste,” she said.
However, the study also underlines that much work remains to fully estimate the potential emissions contribution - and thus possible emissions savings – from the waste sector because in many countries data can be patchy and methods of calculating waste-related pollution vary between nations.
In fact the report notes that levels of uncertainty can be as high as 10-30 per cent for developed countries (with good data sets) to more than 60 per cent for developing countries that do not have annual data.
Methane emissions from landfills are generally considered to represent the biggest impact on the climate from the waste sector, followed by incineration of waste. Methane is generated in landfills when microbes form and begin to break down organic matter, such as food, paper, wood or garden trimmings.
A roughly even mix of carbon dioxide and methane gas forms during the decomposition process, but the practice in some locations of burying or covering waste can result in a greater proportion of methane being produced. When that methane escapes into the atmosphere it is thought to have a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide over 100 years.
Landfills that have gas recovery systems in place capture the methane and convert it into fuel and compost. Capture rates vary from landfill to landfill (because they depend on the mix of the materials dumped in them) but estimates from managed landfills in developed countries put capture rates at 50-80 per cent.
One study quoted in the report suggests emissions savings of 132-185 kg CO2 equivalent per tonne of wet, mixed municipal solid waste input stored in well-managed, European landfills. Another study suggests that simply by diverting food, garden and paper waste to composting or recycling stations, thereby reducing the amount of organic matter in landfills, emissions could be cut by 250kg CO2-equivalent per tonne of municipal solid waste.
For example, Germany, between 1990 and 2005, gradually banned untreated organic waste in landfills. By 2012, it is expected that this will have avoided 28.4 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent of methane emissions.
The report estimates that in many developing countries, the level of organic waste (and thus a potential source of methane emissions) is around 50 per cent, cautioning that in a rapidly developing country such as China, it will represent more than half of the waste stream up to and beyond 2030 if no action is taken.
The report notes that handling of greenhouse gases in the waste sector needs to be considered in the light of other environmental, social and economic implications of waste management strategies, which will differ from location to location.
According to the UNEP, although average annual per capita waste generation in developing countries is estimated at 10-20 per cent of that of developed countries, this figure is rising in response to economic and population growth.
It says one of the key challenges is to decouple waste production from economic growth and that some of the world’s poorest countries have difficulty accessing finance and technology to implement waste management and recovery programmes, although some projects are being fast-tracked with support under the Kyoto Protocol and its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
Meanwhile, a separate assessment by UNEP’s Risoe Centre in Denmark estimates that around 320 (or just under 6 per cent) of CDM projects in the pipeline are related to landfill gas.
This, according to experts, is just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the potential. China for example produces 254 million tons of refuse a year yet only 2.5 per cent of all CDM projects in China are landfill ones, while in India, just under two per cent of CDM projects are landfill.

Friday, November 26, 2010

High electricity tariffs affecting rural water delivery

Mr. Daniel Kabe

A research on tariff setting mechanisms of water boards, has established that high electricity tariffs have become a bane to rural water delivery and thus are affecting access to potable water by rural communities in Ghana.
The study, which was conducted by Bosate Consulting, with Mr. Daniel Kabe as its Lead Researcher, also found out that in view of the continuous upward adjustment of electricity tariffs, many small town water systems, which are supposed to be self-sustaining, are operating at a loss.
Making this known at a validation workshop on the tariff setting research in Accra yesterday, Mr. Kabe said despite the high electricity tariffs that operators of the water systems have to pay each month, they are continually faced with a dilemma as regards the final cost of the water served the rural community, because members find it difficult to even pay the current rate of 5Gp for two size 34inch buckets, which is equivalent to US$4 per m³.
“The economic environment has major influence on the operations and management of the systems, especially the cost of power,” the Lead Researcher stated.
Adding to this, he disclosed that his five-man research team observed some District Assemblies as well as Water and Sanitation Board members do not pay their water tariffs and bills, which is compounding an already bad situation.
Mr. Kabe further divulged that 90% of the areas the team visited did not have their water meters working, which means no one can tell the volume of water dispensed, stating however, that operators of systems with the faulty meters did not express the desire to have them fixed.
To address barriers faced in tariff-setting, the research team recommended that “The principles of cost efficiency, cost recovery and economic efficiency applied should integrate an ability to exhibit flexibility to suit the particular rural context,” warning that where unwholesome sources of water are easily available, the high propensity of consumers to shift to these alternative sources when tariffs are high must cannot be ruled out.
The researchers also recommended that an assessment of the consumers’ ability and not willingness to pay, must be taken cognisance of, if the service is deemed as basic.
They also charged the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) at the national level, through its supervisory Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, to attempt a discourse with the Electricity Company of Ghana towards a flat rate or any formula that will reduce the burden of power cost on the water systems.
Further, Mr. Daniel Kabe and his team suggested that mother Ministries for defaulting public institutions, especially health, Police Service and the District Assemblies should be engaged in ministerial discourse on settlement of bills.
On policy design and decision making on tariff setting, the research report recommended that CWSA maintain minimal interference in tariff setting by water boards and district assemblies and define guidelines that will help the local authorities, the communities and the water boards to set up tariff rates, which are both socially and economically rational and self-sustaining.
As regards the sustainability of water systems, the research team suggested proper management of water sheds, subsidising of the cost of energy, classification of the small water system into the domestic category by the Volta River Authority (VRA) and remuneration for qualified staff.
In an interview, Mr. Kabe disclosed that for the month-long research, his team visited New Abirim in the Eastern Region, Tamale, Gushegu and Savelugu in the Northern Region, Bongo in the Upper East Region, and Gwollu in the Upper West Region.
Explaining why the research was conducted, Mr. Kabe said “WaterAid is interested in looking at the impact that the utility adjustment that the PURC announced recently is having on the poor – how they are coping with that – that’s the main essence.”
Commenting on the issue of tariff setting, Akwasi Ofori Amanfo, Secretary, New Abirim Water and Sanitation Development Board, said although his board has not set any tariff since 2004, the increase in electricity tariffs had necessitated that now, which action will be largely informed by many factors such as their ability to retrieve money owed them by many individuals.
He also spoke of irregular electricity power supply which hampers the distribution of water by their two interconnected pumping stations to their three overhead tanks and then to New Abirim and other communities around including Mamaso.
Touching on the report, he said even though many of the recommendations are already being practiced, it will serve as a reminder to his board.
In her opening remarks, Afia S. Zakiya, Country Representative for WaterAid in Ghana said “People who are the least endowed in financial resources are willing to pay for the water they use. This conversation is to make sure that it is done in an inclusive manner.”
“Poor people are willing to pay, so how do we determine prices that are fair and equitable?,” she asked, adding that access to potable water contributes to eradication of diseases and enhances child education.
For his part, Ibrahim Musah, WaterAid in Ghana, stated that his organisation finds validation essential because it is involved in advocacy. “We also want to get actionable recommendation plans,” he said.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Researchers draw attention to use of well water by urban poor

Girl fetching water from a well fitted with a pump

Researchers with the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), have strongly advocated for the inclusion of well water when measuring access to water by the urban poor, as most people depend largely on them.
In a study published last week Monday, 15 November 2010, the researchers maintained that a key water resource that will grow in importance as climate change takes hold is currently going largely unmeasured — with big implications for poor communities in developing nations,.
The International Institute for Environment and Development’s study shows that hundreds of millions of urban people in developing countries already depend on water taken directly from wells, which they classify as a hidden resource and thus ‘invisible’.
Specifically, the study estimates that almost a third of urban households in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia rely on groundwater from local wells, and that the share is considerably higher among poorer households.
Making the findings of the study public, a press statement issued by the IIED said water taken directly from wells rather than being piped to users from surface-water supplies such as rivers and reservoirs is rarely taken into account, and it is therefore being used invisibly.
“This might mean that it is being used unsustainably but it might also mean that groundwater has even greater potential to supply poor communities than is currently thought,” according to the Institute.
The study warns that policymakers, donors and others have neglected poor people’s dependence on wells, and it urges action to ensure that people can use groundwater in a safe and sustainable way.
“The policy trend is to promote the use of piped water but as our research shows, large proportions of urban populations are not served and must supply themselves with groundwater from wells,” says co-author Dr Jenny Grönwall.
He adds that “Unfortunately most official statistics, including those that measure progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goal on water, fail to acknowledge the value of different kinds of wells.”
Grönwall states further that “It is critical that the neglect of this resource ends, as research suggests that climate change will make groundwater increase in importance in large parts of the world, not least in the urban areas of developing nations.”
One problem is that the UN Millennium Development Goal system defines wells as being ‘improved’ or ‘unimproved’ when these terms do not reflect real differences in the importance of wells and can in fact condemn vital sources of water, the statement says, adding, one of the reasons that groundwater gets neglected is an assumption that it is of poor quality or likely to be contaminated, especially if a well is located close to a latrine.
“It is a misconception that sanitation facilities near wells will automatically cause disease and that such wells deserve to be shut down,” says co-author Dr. Martin Mulenga. “In reality, transmission routes for harmful microbes are much more complex,” Dr. Mulenga maintains.
To him, “Household treatment and good hygiene practices such as hand-washing may still need to be promoted to reduce health risks,” and that “Governments and donor agencies should take steps to enable poor communities to use groundwater in a safe and sustainable way, rather than discouraging their use of this resource.”
The researchers say that, overall, a greater availability of well-water can be better for people’s health as it promotes good hygiene, stressing that not all water used must be of potable standard.
They also call for better monitoring of urban groundwater resources and wells and for groundwater to be included more often in plans and policies for integrated water resource management. Measures to improve recharge of aquifers and to protect both groundwater and wells from pollution are urgent, the researchers say.
“While water privatisation and regional water scarcities grab the limelight, this study shows that a large share of the world’s poorest urban dwellers actually depend on local wells,” says Dr. Gordon McGranahan, head of IIED’s Human Settlements Group.
“Far more needs to be done to support the efforts of local households and communities, and to make water supplies from wells more reliable and safe. This will be a challenge for water sector organisations more accustomed to working through large utilities and regional water resource authorities,” Dr. McGranahan opines.
The research, which includes extended case-studies of Bangalore, India and Lusaka, Zambia — adds that self-supply from local wells can be a cheaper alternative to piped supplies in situations where infrastructure for house connections is unfeasible or too costly.

Rich nations fail to assist poorest nations adapt to climate change impacts – Research


Almost a year down the line, developed nations are failing to keep the promise they made at the Copenhagen Climate Change meeting, to provide adequate finance to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, according to the outcome of a research published last week Wednesday.
According to Achala Chandani of IIED, who took part in the research, “In last December’s climate summit in Copenhagen developed countries committed to provide developing nations with US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, with the money balanced between funding for mitigation and adaptation projects,” but have failed to meet their responsibility to help poorer nations.
He says the research shows that funding pledges made since the Copenhagen meeting are far from balanced, with very little earmarked for projects that would enable developing nations to enhance their resilience to climate-change impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, health and livelihoods.
A press release which announced the research findings, said the paper was published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and includes a five-point plan to enable developed nations to fulfil their pledges and build the trust needed to advance the next session of UN climate-change negotiations, which begin on 29 November in Cancun, Mexico.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Saleemul Huq of IIED, so far “Only US$3 billion has been formally allocated for adaptation,” adding, “There is also a danger that some of this could come in the form of loans, which would further indebt already poor nations and force them to pay to fix a problem that the developed nations created.”
The researchers warn that it is also unclear how the money will be disbursed, what type of projects it will support, and how the global community will be able to track adherence to pledges and ensure that the funding is truly new and additional to existing aid budgets.
For his part, Dr J. Timmons Roberts, Director of the Centre for Environmental Studies at Brown University and co-director of the AidData project (, said “Currently there is no common framework to oversee, account for and enforce the delivery of the money that rich nations promised to support adaptation to climate change in developing nations”.
“Industrialised nations seem to think they can get away with an “anything goes” approach—where whatever they describe as adaptation funding counts,” adds Roberts. “The danger is that existing development projects that are not specific responses to the threat of climate change will simply be relabelled as climate adaptation projects,” he laments.
“We have technology now that would allow recipient governments and civil society groups of all types to add their own information about the progress and effectiveness of every adaptation project planned and underway,” adds Dr J. Timmons Roberts. “By tracking funds all the way from taxpayers in developed nations to each expenditure in the developing countries, this system could create a new era in global cooperation, avoiding many of the pitfalls of past foreign aid,” he says.
Adding his voice to the research findings, David Ciplet, also a researcher at Brown University adds: “The big promises for adaptation funding made at Copenhagen are not being met. Rather, a fragmented non-system for deciding what counts as adaptation funding is forming, and there is no way to truly measure whether the promises are being met.”
He says “Adaptation funding is absolutely crucial for the billions of people who face the rising intensity of climate disasters, but making promises is only the first step.” “What matters now is that developed countries make good on their promises and provide the funding needed to enable vulnerable countries and communities to increase their resilience to climatic threats such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels and new risks from diseases and crop pests,” he adds.
The researchers say that to rebuild trust on both sides of the North-South divide, industrialised countries should support an independent registry under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) and then provide it with detailed and timely data and on all their climate-related projects.

Friday, November 19, 2010

No toilets – The daily dilemma of the average Ghanaian

Residents in a queue waiting for their turn at a public toilet

Auntie Alima – 47, is a resident at Kanda Ruga, near Nima in Accra, who has lived for years in a compound house that has no toilet facility.
As a result, she and her three children have had to fall on a public toilet which is about 10 minutes walk, anytime they have to attend to nature’s call.
They however, are only able to use one of the public toilets in their vicinity – the much preferred KVIP, in view of its comparatively low charge, after paying 5 Ghana Pesewas per head.
Just one visit to the public toilet in a day by Auntie Alima’s family means they have to part with 20 Ghana Pesewas daily, while for a week, they will have to pay a total of GH¢1.40p and GH¢6.20 for a month of 31 days.
Visiting the public toilet more than once in the day by any member of Auntie Alima’s family only means more cost on toilet and even higher expenditure if they decide to use the other facility in the same vicinity – a water closet toilet which charges 20 Ghana Pesewas per head, per visit.
“I feel so bad when I have to go to toilet at night; I have sometimes gone to the public latrine at 1am and 11pm,” she lamented when she narrated how the lack of a toilet facility in her household impacts on her life.
Auntie Alima’s daily quandary is just but a drop in the ocean, as a snap shot survey of some toilet facilities in two selected low income and informal communities – Nima and Accra New Town, which was conducted by members of the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) with the support of Water Aid in Ghana in the first half of the month of November, 2010 showed.
Currently, Nima’s population is estimated to be more than 69,000, with the number of houses in the town calculated to be in the region of 2,400. This translates into an average household size of less than five.
On the other hand,  the current population of Accra New Town is pegged at 45,130, while there are 1738 houses with an average house size of 4.4.
The survey, which formed part of a campaign by the GWJN dubbed “Drop it in a Hole”, to commemorate World Toilet Day, which is being marked worldwide today and locally at the Moshi Zongo in Kumasi with its theme as – “Sanitation is Dignity, Hygiene is Health”, brought to the fore the absence of latrines in the average Ghanaian household and the disgusting state of most of the few public toilets provided by Local Government Authorities.
A visit to a household of 13 people in Nima also revealed the absence of a household latrine and it was established that a pan latrine that used to be in operation was no more functioning because the night soil carriers, who were mostly Losos and Dagaartis hailing from Northern Togo and Northern Ghana respectively were no more available for that job.
Narrating his daily ordeal as a result of the absence of a toilet in the household, Mr. Murtala Ibrahim, a driver with a construction company, said: “I have no other choice though, than to join a queue at the public toilet when I meet one. It means whenever I am hard pressed I have to rush to the toilet early so that I would be able to empty my bowels in good time before I soil myself.”
Expressing the desire of his household members to have their own place of convenience, preferably a water closet, Mr. Ibrahim said that was being hampered by the unavailability of funds to undertake such project, as they are mostly unemployed or do not have permanent jobs.
However, he said: “There is no privacy or comfort in using the public toilet. At times people will be waiting in a queue for you to finish. Other times people will be shouting out to you that you are taking too long in the toilet and must come out so they can use it too.”
“We will certainly want to have our own latrine in the house. If it is provided for us we will definitely pay for its construction once we see that it has been provided,” Murtala Ibrahim stressed.
The two toilets provided by the AMA for the East Ayawaso Sub Metro, numbered 16 for males and females, were a beehive of activities with both sexes visiting the facility every minute when the group visited in the morning.
Confirming the high patronage, the attendant in charge of the place Nii Tettey, said at the peak, as many as 1,500 people visit the facilities daily.
In an interview, Thomas Badewan (in his early 20s), who had just finished using the facility, said he lives in a compound house which has about 25 people but no toilet facility, so they all use the public toilet.
He said “if anybody in the household experiences an upset stomach in the middle of the night, they ease themselves inside the big drain or run to the public toilet,” which is open all day and charges 5Gp.
Thomas, who has lived in the community for four months, said when he visits the toilet at about 5am there is always a queue of about 10 people and he has to wait patiently for his turn to use the toilet.
“When I find it difficult to hold myself up as I wait for my turn, there is nothing I can do,” he bemoaned.
Another patron, Doris, who had just finished using the facility, reluctantly granted an interview. Doris a hairdresser, said she has lived in the Nima community for two years, during which period she has always used the public toilet.
According to 26-year-old Doris, she has had to resort to use of the public toilet because her household of about 20 tenants which is about five minutes walk away, does not have a latrine.
Commenting on how using the facility impacts upon her life, Doris said “Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad,” explaining that “Sometimes when you come in the morning the place has not been cleaned but sometimes when you come it is good.”
“I have never come here at night before but sometimes I come at dawn and meet a queue; other times there is no queue,” Doris, who is single and has no children said.
“There is another public toilet facility around my home but I prefer to come here just as other people, because the squat hole of that toilet is too big (bigger than the space left for your two feet) that I may have my foot slipping into it unlike this one. Moreover, this place is cleaner than that facility. I have been there once but I realised that place is not good for me,” she intimated.
“Every toilet has some stench emanating from it so much cannot be done about that, but sometimes when you come here in the afternoon, the stench is unbearable,” she stated further.
For her part, 20-year-old Mary Nartey, a dress maker, who was born after the facility was built, said “I have no other choice than to use the public toilet for my needs as a woman, since there is no such facility in my home.”
Still at Nima at a suburb known as Alata a 13-roomed compound house with an average of 6 members per household was visited. It was found out that there was no toilet facility and all had to depend on a communal latrine, which is about 5- minutes walk from the house.
50-year-old Lawrence Yeboah is a tenant in the household who has a wife and four children. A driver working with Alitalia Airlines, Mr. Yeboah’s whose eldest child is 24yrs has lived in the household for 20 yrs.
He intimated that at first there was a pan latrine in the house, but that has been condemned because of the ban that has been imposed and they all have to make do with the public latrine which charges 10 Ghana Pesewas per visit.
According to him, although the tenants have spoken to the landlord about the need to have a latrine in the household, they are yet to see any action on that.
“It is sometimes difficult when we have to visit the toilet at night. At times it is very late and certain times there is power outage. Most households in the area do not have latrines,” he volunteered.
Mr. Yeboah supplied further that although he now lives with only his wife, all his children grew up there with them, adding that there is neither soap nor water at the public toilet they visit each day.
Mariama Suraju, 35, who lives in the same household intimated that when her baby attends to nature’s call in a chamber pot she has to take it all the way to the public toilet to empty it and pay 5 Ghana Pesewas, adding however, that when the little one aged 1½ years eases himself in his diapers, she disposes of it as part of the household garbage.
48-year-old Adasa Kofi, a tenant in another household who has lived there for 20 years with wife and two kids also has had no toilet facility in the household, since a room that used to house a pan latrine has been converted into a room for a tenant.
All tenants now use a privately-owned public toilet close by, as no toilet facility has been built since the pan latrine was destroyed.
In Ghana, the absence of basic toilet facilities in households has not only resulted in open defecation known as ‘free range’, but also long toilet queues at public places of convenience mostly in the mornings and what has now been labelled as ‘wrap and throw’ where people ease themselves, wrap their excreta in black polythene bags and throw them over their walls or into public drains.
Kwasi Acheampong, 26, who lives in a compound house with as many as 26 different tenants and their families, says he patronises the drain as a toilet because there is no toilet facility in his house, while the nearest public toilet at Nima is about a kilometre away.
For his part, a resident of New Town Timber Market, Gabriel Midodzi, 68, explained that the distance people have to walk before reaching the nearest public toilet facility is one of the causes of open defecation in the area. “Coupled with this is the fact that they are not prepared to part with 10 pesewas to visit the public toilet, or 20 pesewas for the privately built toilets,” he added.
Kwaku Nyarko, 31, a driver’s apprentice who had just defecated into a big drain between Paloma Hotel and a Total fuel station off the Ring Road, Accra, confirmed Mr. Midodzi’s assertion, adding that there are about 40 tenants where he lives at Kokomlemle with no toilet facility.
“We have to walk for at least seven minutes to go and queue at the nearest public toilet at Nima,” he stated.
Open defecation
According to the JMP report on sanitation in Africa, open defecation rate in Ghana only reduced marginally from 24% in 1990 to 20% in 2006. This negative practice is therefore still quite phenomenal in the country, as the GWJN’s rounds showed.
Both local and international reports indicate that more than four million people in Ghana resort to defecating in bushes, drains, and in fields.
According to the Ghana Statistical Service Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report for 2006, open defecation is prevalent in all the ten regions, but most widespread in the Upper East Region with about 82% without any form of latrine engaging in the practice, followed by the Upper West Region with about 79% and then the Northern Region with about 73%.
According to the most recent report on sanitation of the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, only about 2.2 million people in Ghana have access to decent household toilets. This means the remainder are using shared facilities or engaging in open defecation.
Meanwhile, according to Lukman Salifu, Consultant to Ghana’s Technical Committee on Sanitation and Water for All Global Partnership (SWA), open defecation is increasing the country’s common diseases burden.
Addressing a Consultative Workshop on preparation towards the first annual High Level Meeting (HLM) on SWA in Accra on Tuesday March 16, 2010, he quoted the open defecation rates in Ghana by region for 2006 which was published in 2008, as ranging from 3.4% for the Ashanti Region to 81.9% for the Upper East Region.
Between them is the Eastern Region with 5.5%, Brong Ahafo, 6.4%; Greater Accra, 8.1%; Western, 12.8%; Central, 18.1%; Volta, 13.8%; Northern, 72.9% and Upper West, 78.7%.
Sub Metro’s Reaction
The group began its field work with a visit to the Ayawaso East Sub-Metro office where it made some enquiries on the number of sanitation facilities that have been provided by the sub-metro for the people in its jurisdiction.
At the sub-metro office, an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that “people cannot have facilities constructed for them, because of the lack of space and accessibility for dislodgement.” The source said the unavailability of water is also a factor.
“If Accra must develop, it must stick to the original plan of the city. That will mean moving of encroachers from land designated for roads, sanitation facilities, dump sites etc.,” the source continued.
Touching on the type of facilities used by households in the sub-metro, the official disclosed: “Pan latrines form the majority in the sub-metro.”
Commenting on how the system can be effectively banned, he opined that assistance must be given to the numerous households to convert their toilets to flush toilets, saying “That is the only way pan latrines can be eradicated.”
According to the official too, “Pit latrines are not suitable for Accra because it is sandy and pits can cave in easily.” He added other factors that make pit latrines impracticable as the very strong stench that emanates from them and the high water table of Accra.
He also said the KVIP latrine model cannot work properly because of the high water table – which means when a hole is abandoned if it is full, the faeces cannot turn into humus as should be the case.
The official also divulged that in view of the water from the soil, people who construct KVIP line the pits with cement blocks “and when it is full water is poured in and pounded to soften faeces for dislodging by tanks.”
To him, the construction of boreholes can make the construction of water closets worth the while, because water will be made available to flush the toilets. He added that construction of the Accra Sewerage system would be a major leap forward in the provision of improved sanitation facilities if it is done.
The source lamented that the sanitation situation has reached crisis point, where open defecation is practiced inside major drains in Accra, citing the Odaw drain, Paloma drain and Akweteyman drain as major areas where the practice is carried out shamelessly.
Oh how the practice of open defecation can be nipped in the bud, Mr. L. A. Quarcoo, Environmental Health and Sanitation Officer, Ayawaso East sub metro, opined that open defecation could be tackled if the sanitation staff were well resourced and given additional duty hour allowances (ADHA) to enable them work very early in the morning and late in the night to arrest perpetrators.
He also indicated the sub-metro’s plan to work with Watch Dog Committees to confront the menace.
According to Mr. Quarcoo,  the Sub-metro is scouting for spots where communal septic tanks, for instance for about ten homes, could be constructed for common use and subsequent connection to a central sewerage systems once the Accra Sewerage Improvement Project (ASIP) is completed.
For his part, Chairman of the Ayawaso East Sub-metro, Alhaji Abdul Razak Aliu, assured that health inspectors go round from time to time to check the sanitary conditions of the toilets. According to him, the Sub-metro was ensuring that those tasked to manage toilets render proper accounts and manage them efficiently, failure of which will result in sanctions by the sub metro.
Regarding the continued use of pan latrines which have been banned, Alhaji Aliu indicated that some contractors had been contacted to assist households by constructing toilet facilities for them and spreading the payment over a period.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Despite ban, 500 pan latrines still in use in Ayawaso East


In spite of a ban placed on the use of pan latrines in the Accra metropolis by the Supreme Court, it has been revealed that in the Easy Ayawaso Sub Metro of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly alone, 500 of such latrines are still operational.
Disclosing this to a team of journalists belonging to the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) in his office Friday, who were on a fact-finding mission on the provision of sanitation facilities in the Ayawaso sub metro area, Mr. L. A. Quarcoo, Environmental Health and Sanitation Officer, said although the ban is still in force, it will not be until 2011 that the pan latrine will be completely phased out in the metropolis.
He told the journalists who had called on him as part of a campaign embarked upon in collaboration with Water Aid Ghana dubbed “Drop it in a hole” to mark World Toilet Day which falls on Friday November 19, that in spite of the ban, the AMA and the sub metro are facing serious challenges in phasing out the now outmoded pan latrine system, because of the lack of space and accessibility to communities using pan latrines.
He explained that although the sub metro is committed to phasing out the pan latrines, replacing such latrines with the more acceptable water closet facilities for households has become a big challenge, as the communities are so packed that there is virtually no space to site a sewerage system.
“Inaccessibility is a major problem of dislodging a septic tank when full – Kwao Tsuru is so choked that a 12ft × 12ft septic tank cannot be placed anywhere – the problem is also at Nima and Maamobi,” Mr. Quarcoo said.
To counter the problem, the sub metro Environmental Health Officer said “We are planning on going round to scout for available places for 12ft × 18ft septic tanks to link up several households which will contribute to dislodging when full,” citing a central sewage system at Ashiedu Keteke in central Accra, where all households that have been connected have only had to pay an initial fee, as an example of the plan of the sub metro.
Indicating the resolve of the Ayawaso East Sub Metro to make pan latrines a thing of the past, he stressed “We will stop the landlords from using the pan latrines.”
Lamenting that emptying of the pan latrines, which is mostly done by Losos from Northern Togo and Dagartis from Northern Ghana was also a big headache as most do not have access to underground withholding tanks, Mr. Quarcoo said “We are using a Nima watch committee to track down indiscriminate dumping of night soil by those who do not have access to underground withholding tanks.”
Volunteering that the sub metro is going to attend to households that desire improved latrines, he disclosed that a non-governmental organisation – CHF International (Cooperative Housing Foundation), has built about 60 household KVIP latrines, declaring that eventually, all public toilets in the metropolis will be converted to water closet facilities.
“We don’t want communal toilets – we want household toilets,” he emphasised.
Meanwhile, during some rounds conducted by the GWJN team in the sub metro, it was realised that the ban on the pan latrines was well known by many households. However, while some had stopped using their facilities and indeed converted or utterly condemned them, a host of them were still using them for various reasons.
A household that was found still using a pan latrine said it was only being used by the very aged father of the landlord because he could not use the public toilet used by the 15 different families in the household, which was quite a distance (15 minutes walk) from the household.
The high prevalence of pan latrines in the Ayawaso East Sub Metro of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), gives credence to Lukman Salifu, Consultant to Ghana’s Technical Committee on Sanitation and Water for All Global Partnership’s (SWA) assertion earlier this year that out of an estimated 20,000 pan latrines country-wide currently, Accra alone has 5,200 still in operation.
According to him, although the Supreme Court has banned the use of pan latrines effective July 8, 2008, it will not be until 2013 that they would be completely discarded, as the court gave a period of five years for pan latrines to be phased out in Accra.
In the meantime, a news report on the ban that was published in the Friday July 18, 2008 issue of The Ghanaian Times, said the Supreme Court instructed the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), to construct 1,500 water closets and KVIPs within the period as well as arrange subsidies for those who will convert their pan latrines.
The court also directed the AMA to stop granting permits to building plans that do not have adequate provision for WC or KVIP and asked the Assembly to prosecute anyone who engages people to carry human excreta after the period.
The directive from the Supreme Court followed the filing of a writ by an Accra-based legal practitioner, Nana Adjei Ampofo, in February 2008, against the AMA, challenging the Assembly’s constitutional right to engage people to carry human excreta from pan latrines.
Again, indicating that less than 50% of the Ghanaian populace have access to water closets or flush toilets, Lukman Salifu stated that while 3% still use pan latrines, 45% use WC, 23% use VIP latrines, 17% – Pit latrines, 7% – KVIP, Others 7% and STL – 1%.
However, the most recent report from the Ghana Statistical Service indicates that about 180,000 people, representing about 0.8% of the population still use the pan or bucket latrines in Ghana whereas this has been declared globally as unsafe and nationally as both unsafe and illegal.
Also, according to the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD), only about 4.5% of Ghanaians have access to sewerage systems.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

US$6.8m conservation boost for over 15 protected areas


Over fifteen protected areas, including one managing monk seals off Mauritania and another in Sumatra that is home to orangutans, tigers and elephants, are to receive a US$6.8 million conservation boost.
This was announced last week Thursday at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, by the government of Spain and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in a new partnership for protected areas under the LifeWeb initiative.
The partnership, supporting mainly low income and developing countries, aims to deliver benefits, not just for biodiversity but for communities living in and around protected areas.
For example, as per the initiative, some of the funds will support improved health services for local people in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also, in Panama and El Salvador, support to the Mesoamerican terrestrial protected areas will help develop innovative economic and legal instruments to promote sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems through their social and economic values, and the ecosystem services.
A statement publicising the partnership says it will also support the establishment of new protected areas that in turn can generate new streams of incomes for local people. This includes improving links between existing national parks and marine reserves in West Africa, to create a protected area network for sea turtles, in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
Commenting on the initiative, Teresa Ribera, Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change, said: “The growth in Protected Areas is one of the real success stories of conservation over the past half century. The challenge is to ensure that as many as possible of these around 100,000 sites are well-managed and in a way that maximises livelihood and income opportunities for people alongside securing the biodiversity and economically-important ecosystems found at such important sites.”
“Our government’s investment is aimed at achieving these triple win goals and realising the opportunities at initially 11 demonstration projects on marine, coastal and terrestrial protected areas. In doing so, it is making a contribution to advancing the biodiversity targets and the poverty-related UN Millennium Development Goals,” she continued.
For his part, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “I want to thank the Government of Spain for their leadership and support by investing in these nature-based asset - assets providing services such as water supplies, soil fertility and carbon storage worth trillions of dollars a year to local and indeed the global economy.”
He stated that “The evidence linking poverty eradication and protected areas is also emerging,” disclosing, “A recent report by UNEP’s Green Economy team for example cited Costa Rica. Here wages and employment have risen and poverty has been reduced since the protected area estate was expanded to some 26 per cent of the country’s land surface.”
Mr. Steiner cited other cases, including from the UNEP-hosted, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), where investment in sustainable management are triggering dividends.
He listed such areas as Venezuela, where investment in the national protected area system is preventing sedimentation that otherwise could reduce farm earnings by around US$3.5 million a year.
The UNEP Executive Director also said investment in the protection of Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve is generating an annual income of close to US$50 million a year, has generated 7,000 jobs and further boosted local family incomes.

On the other hand, the protected areas to benefit from the UNEP-Spain LifeWeb partnership include, for Africa, the Takamanda National Park in Cameroon, where funds will provide economic incentives to conserve the habitat of the rare Cross-River Gorilla with additional benefits for curbing climate change linked with deforestation.
Other areas in Africa are the Garamba and the Kazuhi-Biega National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo where funds will support improved conservation of various rare and endangered species including the Northern white rhino, chimpanzee, elephant and gorilla, the Lossi Fauna Reserve and the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo where it is planned to boost tourism and thus income for local people by hiring locally-recruited park staff.
The rest are the Iles d’Orango National Park, João Vieira-Poilão National Park, Rio Cacheu Mangroves Natural Park in Guinea-Bissau, where funds will be used to conserve threatened species such as manatee, sea turtles and migrating water birds and to develop strategies to reduce harmful fishing, as well as Sea Turtles Marine Protected Areas Network in four West African countries through the reinforcement of conservation measures to protect sea turtle populations, considering the risks caused by the sea-level dynamics in littoral ecosystems and climate change effects.
The last in Africa is the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania, where funds will support the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal and its associated habitats. Surveillance measures will also be reinforced in the Satellite Reserve of Cap Blanc, to help conserve the natural habitat of the seal and seal populations in the region, while funds will also go towards public awareness activities in the marine protected areas.
For Asia, the beneficiary areas will be the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra, Indonesia to help restore degraded habitats that support species including orangutan, rhinoceros and tigers.
In the case of Mesoamerica however, the beneficiary area is the Volcán Barú National Park in Panama, and La Montañona Conservation Area in El Salvador, where the aim is to develop the economic and legal mechanisms to increase the sustainable use of natural resources, and develop linkages among biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being on the basis of environmental and socio-economic values.
For the South and Northeast Pacific and Wider Caribbean, it will be the Marine Mammal Corridors and Critical Habitat in the South and Northeast Pacific and the Wider Caribbean Regions, which will be strengthening regional platforms to improve spatial planning for marine mammals protection and to develop within the regions, an overview of essential habitats and migration routes.
The LifeWeb Initiative was launched in May 2008 during the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Bonn, Germany, with the goal of strengthening financing for protected areas to conserve biodiversity, secure livelihoods and address climate change, through implementation of the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas.
As part of the initiative, developing countries and countries with economies in transition are invited to submit expressions of interest through Life Web to invite financial support for protected areas from development partners.
Currently, the governments of Finland, Germany and Spain are the principal donors to Life Web.

GJA 2010 Award Winners

GJA 2010 Award Winners
Dzifa, Emelia and Gertrude

GJA 2011 Award Winners

GJA 2011 Award Winners
GWJN's 2011 GJA Award-Winning Team

New WASH-JN Executives

New WASH-JN Executives
They are from left - Edmund, Ghana, Aminata: Guinea, Alain: Benin, Paule: Senegal and Ousman: Niger

Celebrating Award

Celebrating Award
The benefits of Award Winning!

Hard Work Pays!

Hard Work Pays!
In a pose with my plaque