An integrated recycling and compost plant (IRECOP) is the best option to address Ghana's sanitation challenges, Members of Parliament (MPs) have unanimously affirmed after a tensed but passionate debate over the state of waste management situation in the country.
Having practiced open dumping and sanitary landfill sites over decades with the latter being operated in major cities and managed by the local assemblies but becoming more of a nuisance largely due to lack of funds and capacity to manage them, the law makers were left with no option than to declare the practice archaic.
They urged the government to move away from managing landfill sites and invest more in integrated recycling and compost facilities that will give it value for money.
The Minority Chief and National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Asawase constituency, Hon. Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, best summed it up in his submission when commenting on the issue on the floor of the august House on Tuesday, December 3, 2019.
"We need to be dealing with the challenge now and the best way to deal with it is recycling because this landfill business, Mr. Speaker, is becoming a failed project. There was one in my constituency - Boaman. It used to be the dumping site for the Kumasi Metropolis. The people rose up and insisted that no no no, the flies; the bad odour; the leachate that sip into the water ... When they resisted and the place was reclaimed, today it is one of the most beautiful suburbs in my constituency. I believe that this landfill business must end. We must look at how others have dealt with it through recycling and muster the courage to confront the challenge head-on and deal with it once and for all because this landfill business is not helping and it must be stopped", he noted.
Sanitary landfills is a method of controlled or environmentally friendly disposal of municipal solid waste (refuse) on land. Under this method, waste is deposited in thin layers and promptly compacted by heavy machinery. Several layers of refuse are placed and compacted on top of each other to form a refuse cell. The compacted refuse cell is covered with a layer of compacted soil to prevent odours and windblown debris.
An integrated recycling and compost plant on the other hand is a multipurpose facility that has the capacity to process plastics into pellets and recover other materials such as paper and electronic waste among others and turn them into raw materials for industry. The organic waste is then converted into a compost for agricultural and horticultural purposes.
The resolved decision of the legislature follows the consideration and adoption of the report of the joint committee on Local Government and Rural Development, Works and Housing and Environment, Science and Technology, on the state of waste management situation in the country.
*Purpose and Objectives*
The work of the occasioned by the inferno that engulfed the Team Metropolitan Assembly Engineered Landfill site at Kpone on August 15, 2019.
The consistent complaints made to MPs by their constituents and civil society organisations in the area triggered the investigation and subsequent field visits by the three committees to ascertain the magnitude of the problem.
They were also to assess the general environmental sanitation in the country, inspect the condition of some landfill sites and evaluate the capacity and management of some transfer stations, landfills and material recovery and compost facilities.
That notwithstanding, the Committee was was also to identify the funding gaps and mechanism for funding sanitation in Ghana and also make recommendations for pragmatic actions to provide sustainable solutions to the waste management challenges confronting the nation.
The joint committee visited the Kpone Landfill site, the Oti landfill site in Kumasi, Gbalahi landfill site in Tamale and the Sekondi-Takoradi Landfill site at Safokrom.
Preliminary investigations conducted that landfill sites across the country were in similar precarious state and if urgent measures were not taken, what happened at the Kpone Landfill site may replicate in other regions.
The Chairman of the Works and Housing Committee and New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Upper Denkyira East, Nana Amoako, who moved the motion for consideration and adoption of the committee's report observed that there is increasing concern over the sanitation and municipal solid waste management in the country. The situation, he added, is particularly alarming in the major cities like Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and Sekondi-Takoradi that general a minimum of 1,200 - 2,500 tons of waste daily.
"The Committee noted that in-spite of the efforts by the MMDAs to improve and effectively manage waste by allowing private participation, there is still incidence of indiscriminate dumping of waste by both residents and drivers of private contractors who dump refuse at the landfill sites. The Committee also noted that MMDAs are currently unable to cope with the situation and are only able to collect about 55% of the waste generated. In the face of increasing cost of collection, transportation and long distances to new disposal sites, the Committee holds the view that if the Central Government does not come to the aid of the MMDAs, the already poor collection of waste may deteriorate further, with its attendant health and environmental challenges", he noted.
The Committee further observed that all the landfill sites in the major cities of the country were is precarious state since none practised proper and efficient leachate control method capable of intercepting surface water from entering the landfills. None also has groundwater monitoring wells and leachate a collection treatment systems.
That aside, the Committee also noted that management of landfill sites in the cities leaves much to be desired, further observing that since the MMDAs lack both financial and technical capacity to manage the landfill sites, they should concentrate on the development and enforcement of standards, while the private sector is empowered by the Government to take up that responsibility.
High cost of operation and funding gap was also identified by the committee as one of key challenges affecting the smooth management of waste in the country. The current fees charged for waste management services in the country is comparatively lower than the average global rate.
According to the World Bank, the global rate charged for lower middle in one counties is estimated US$15 to US$40 per ton whereas the rate in Ghana is about GH$25.00.
Debt accumulation and rising bills are also affecting the smooth management of waste in the country.
What is even more striking, the Committee observed, is the delay in the signing of the management contract for liquid waste treatment plant as Esereso-Adagya and integrated recycling plant at Kumasi and Accra considering the substantial investment made by the private sector to intervene in the growing waste management crises in the country. The Off-taker Agreements in respect of the commercial plants in Tamale and Takoradi are also challenging situation confronting the country, the Committee recommended that the way forward for waste management in the country is for the government to place emphasis on diverting biodegradable and recyclable waste fraction away from landfills, using innovative treatment techniques.
"To ensure that there is a paradigm shift in the traditional mode of disposal to other innovative environmentally friendly alternatives, the Committee recommends as a matter of urgency, the establishment of at least one integrated recycling and compost plant in each region in the country", the report in part noted.
The Committee further recommended to Government to as a matter of urgency speed up the process and finalise the management arrangement with the private firm to enable it fully commence operation, stressing that agreements in respect of the Tamale and Sekondi-Takoradi waste treatment plants and other similar agreements should also be finalised and signed.
"It is imperative that in our quest to attract private players into the industry, these Agreements are signed in order to provide comfort to other prospective investors into the sector", Nana Amoako noted when presenting the Committee's report to the plenary.
The NPP MP for Madina, Abu-Bakar Saddique Boniface, commenting on the report said the rate of waste generation in the major cities of the country has been increasing at an alarming rate due to population drift, calling for immediate measures to be put in place to address the situation before disaster hits the citizenry.
"In fact, if we don't take immediate measures, it will affect the good intentions of His Excellency the President. We are sitting on a time bomb if we don't take the issues very well. I think they can cause major health hazard for the country one day", he informed.
The NDC MP for Odododiodioo constituency, Edwin Nij Lantey Vanderpuye, on hi part said, considering the precarious situation of waste management in the country, it was about time the country begins to think about how it could appropriately manage waste using modern techniques, citing IRECOP, a modern waste management facility situated in his constituency as an example worthy to emulate.
" What is happening at IRECOP, Mr. Speaker, is not only the management of waste but the by-product of the waste management - fertilizer or manure. We used to have Lavenda Hill to the extent that this country was blacklisted by the International Maritime Association for throwing effluent into the ocean. Today, we have the Accra Sewage Systems which has virtually brought a halt to that improper management of that liquid waste. What we saw in Kumasi is an indictment on all of us. We saw liquid waste - the laechate dripping off into peoples homes and into water bodies within the community. People living in that area are also human beings, they pay taxes; they are Ghanaians and they deserve the best", he underscored.
The Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei- Kyei Mensah Bonsu, also contributing to the motion commended the Committee for a good job done.
He was however, concerned about the precarious situation of waste management in the country considering the information contained in the Committee's report.
"Ghana", he said "is at the precipitate of disaster.
He described the situation as catastrophic and monumental proportion that is waiting to affect the country if immediate steps are taken to address it.
He appealed to the Speaker for the House to make the recommendations made by the Committee into a legislation to prevent any disaster that may strike the nation.
The First Deputy Speaker, Hon. Joseph Osei Owusu, who presided over the sitting, having listened to the concerns of the MPs, summons the Ministers of Local Government and Rural Development and Sanitation and Water Resources to appear for the Committee of the Whole to find a lasting solution to the challenge at hand.
The two ministers are largely responsible for addressing the sanitation needs of the country.