By Edmund Smith-Asante
The stench of garbage fills the air as people busily collect an unsightly mix of rubbish and black water piled on the shoulders of the road into a waste truck.
Although the street is quite busy with vehicles and people at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, it is quickly observed by their unmistakable blue and orange attire that those engaged in the clean-up to mark the 18th National Sanitation Day (NSD) are mostly staff members of Zoomlion Domestic Services Limited (ZDL).
Although many shops in the heart of the Abossey Okai spare parts area remain closed in view of the exercise, it is easy to decipher that the shop owners, who are observing the clean-up from the front of their shops, are only waiting for the exercise to end so they can open their shops for business.
However, the Operations Manager of ZDL, Mr Husein Suadiq, told the Daily Graphic that there had been an improvement in patronage of the clean-up exercise, following earlier interactions with some opinion and religious leaders in the area to encourage people to take part in the exercise.
“When we started, in view of the apathy of the people, we saw that there was the need to educate the people more before the day. On Thursday and Friday, we did public sensitisation and we also engaged the religious bodies within the areas of the clean-up so that they sensitise the people to the need for us to clean our surroundings.
“When we started doing that, we realised that the numbers had increased. This morning before we reached Abossey Okai, we realised that they had even started desilting the gutters very early and we came to join them,” he said.
While agreeing that a day for clean-up was not enough to ensure a clean environment at all times, Mr Suadiq said the rationale behind the exercise was to imbue the people with the need to clean their surroundings irrespective of whether there is a sanitation day or not.
He testified that some areas had adopted the exercise and almost every week cleaned their surroundings.
The Waste Management Director of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mr Anthony Mensah, commended the District Cleansing Officer (DCO), Sub-Metro Director and the Chairman for the Ablekuma Central Sub-metro for their organisational abilities.
“This has been one of the most successful areas when it comes to the clean-up exercises. They, the Zoomlion Domestic and AMA staffs, have effectively organised the people around,” he said.
Commenting on the effectiveness of the NSD exercise, he said, “Waste generation is a daily affair. Once we embark on activities in our homes and workplaces we generate waste. Therefore, we cannot depend on the monthly exercise to tackle the waste problem but then there is an objective for this monthly exercise.”
Essence of National Sanitation Day exercise
Mr Mensah said the NSD had two main objectives, which are sensitisation and making the environment clean.
“We want the general public to come out, join us to clean. Once we do that, it registers in our minds that there is the need to keep the environment clean. Once we’ve done it over the years, all those who have been participating will develop that culture.
“The second one is that once we come out to clean, physically you see us dealing with the waste so then momentarily the environment will become clean. Of course, the filth will come back in the subsequent days but once we clean, it is significant because we have dealt with a huge quantity of waste on that day,” he said.
Installation and securing litter bins
Mr Mensah indicated that 200 public litter bins had been installed within the central business district of Accra and would be followed up with additional bins in the next stage.
“A strategy has also been developed to empty them. There were challenges initially but they are being refined to effectively empty the bins. Some are emptied once every day, some are emptied twice a day and others are emptied every other day.
“Looking at the population density within the central business district, especially certain locations, some may even have to be emptied more than twice in a day,” he noted.
According to Mr Mensah, the bins, some of which could be found at Makola and the High Court area around the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, were of very high quality and made of steel, which made them heavy, and had been fixed to the ground on concrete which makes them immovable.
While agreeing with the abuse of litter bins in the past, Mr Mensah explained that it because people wanted to dodge the payment of waste collection fees they emptied their household refuse into them or placed it aside, which is against the bye-laws of the AMA.
He said the AMA would collect such litter alongside what was in the bins, but would also go after the culprits who had illegally dumped their refuse by the side of the public bins.
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This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on May 13, 2016