BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
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.