Making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, a lesson from City of Cape Town

I have been repeatedly asked if president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s vision of making Accra the cleanest city in Africa is possible. What do you think?

Well, I have, on each of the occasions, been economical in my response seriously being mindful of the task ahead. Waste management in Accra is no joke man!

But I have a new response to share with the world and before I do just that may I know: Whether it pays to think small?

You may want to keep your reply to yourself because I know that.

Filth in Old Fadama in Accra

Let me take the position of the Samaritan woman referred to in the scripture today and proclaim that Accra can be the cleanest city in Africa. This is possible because waste management giant, Zoomlion Ghana Limited and the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) are hyperactively focused on delivering the project.

To this end, an 11-member team largely from the two institutions have paid a working visit to South Africa’s Cape Town to understudy their handling of waste in that city. These workers were taken through the City of Cape Town’s state-of-the-art Integrated Waste Management System (IWMS) that has been adopted to address waste-related issues there.

With an estimated 433,688 population size, the City of Cape Town (CCT) has developed the state-of-the-art integrated waste management systems that are used to address waste management issues in the City and its environs.

Waste management in the City of Cape Town

There are three waste management facilities sited at Bellville, Kraaifontein and Vissershock which handle the waste generated by residents.

Admirably too is a Task Force made of 33 members called the Law Enforcement Unit that is responsible for arresting, charging and ensuring compliance with statutory laws. The residents have abundantly been made aware of their duties as far as waste management is concerned and have been educated to dispose of all kinds of waste at these facilities or use the container/bin system. The attention given waste management has contributed to making the city a tourism centre with enviable sites such as the Table Mountain, Waterfront Mall, the Red Bus ride which gives one the opportunity to see the city from many positions and the Long Street among others.

A waste management facility in the City of Cape Town

At the Bellville Landfill and Waste Management Facility, which occupies a 73 hectare of land, there are units of the Landfill Section where solid waste is collected and compacted immediately in order not to be overwhelmed by waste. There is a Garden Waste Section where unwanted flowers and trees that fell from the city are brought and disposed and later chopped into pieces by private contractors and eventually used in producing compost fertilizer for sale. Also is the Builders Rubbles’ Section where broken walls and unwanted bricks are brought and offloaded and fragmented into a fine sand for construction of low-cost houses and the less graded ones use for compacting the landfill. At the same facility is the Liquid Waste Facility where the treated leach water is used to water the landfill roads to calm the evident dust on dry days. These are all efforts to reduce, recycle and re-use, what is being sent to the final disposal site.

The good news is that Zoomlion has built such facilities in Ghana to aid in addressing waste management issues.

Also, the Bellville South Landfill which collects in excess of 40,000 tons of waste in a month is due for closure for landfill purposes by city authorities but will remain a transfer station where waste will now be received and transferred to a proposed regional landfill site. In South Africa, before an area can be allowed to operate as a landfill it must be completely fenced unlike what is currently practised in parts of Ghana. Unlike Ghana where waste is transported by trucks and motorized tricycles, the City of Cape Town has advanced by using trains to transport their waste to final disposal sites. A practice Ghana will need to emulate to reduce traffic on the roads in terms of haulage.

A waste management facility in the City of Cape Town

The Kraaifontein Integrated Waste Management Facility (KIWMF) on the other hand, was designed to receive and transfer the waste load to Western Cape Town. The facility is the first integrated waste management facility of its kind in South Africa. As a broadly integrated waste management facility, KIWMF encompasses a transfer station, drop-off facility, container handling area, a chipping area for the processing of green waste (garden waste), and hazardous materials holding area for small quantities received at the drop-off, e-waste and oil holding containers for oil waste.

Facility managers say the compaction hall is used for compacting waste into containers and a dual weighbridge system with two incoming and two outgoing weighbridges. That integrated attitude, having all activities of waste-handling on-site, is what makes the facility unique. Almost half of the waste that is received at the site is sorted and sold off to private recycling contractors.

Management says the city authorities have an entrenched position when it comes to keeping the city clean therefore dumping waste at the landfill or transfer stations are free which incentivizes residents to do the right thing.

A waste management facility in the City of Cape Town

Vissershok Waste Management Facility also combines both solid and liquid waste management whereby there are the Liquid Waste Management Facility and an Engineered Landfill receiving waste material such as tetra pak, builder’s rubble, garage waste, motor oil, clean garden waste, paper and cardboard, cans and metal, glass bottles, polystyrene, plastic and low to medium hazardous waste. This facility, however, does not receive e-waste. The facility which is engineered and projected to serve as a regional landfill site to the City of Cape Town beginning this year is multipurpose and has the capacity to run for many years.

City authorities say their waste management style is geared towards minimizing waste from homes, offices and facilities that are meant for the final disposal site and indeed it does reduce waste by 30%, a mechanism that is hugely laudable and beneficial to the people.

Lessons for Ghana

What Ghana needs to do in this direction is to replicate the Waste Taskforce units which have been started by AMA and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) at all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and empower them to arrest, charge and prosecute using the sanitation courts. This, therefore, means that the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General should also expand the Sanitation Court system to all regions and MMDAs to address the sanitation issues in Ghana.

Political will key

The most critical lessons learnt in this collaboration that the Government of Ghana (GoG) will need to consider greatly is, the fact that in Cape Town the political will to fight waste is very evident and high in that, waste management infrastructure is largely the problem of government and not in the hands of the private sector like in Ghana where efforts to address the waste management problems is in the hands of the private sector. Of all the waste management projects undertaken such as the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP), the Kumasi Compost and Recycling Plant (KCARP) which is 85% complete, the Accra Sewerage System and the plastic recycling plants such as Universal Plastics Processing and Recycling (UPPR) and YEECO Plastics were initiated and are owned by a private organisation especially the Jospong Groups of Companies.

In Cape Town, for instance, the Kraaifontein Integrated Waste Management Facility which is a waste transfer facility, is solely owned by the government and patronized by the private contractors on contract basis but the case is different in Ghana as the only two transfer stations at Teshie and Achimota are all in Accra and are owned by the Jospong Group of Companies owners of Zoomlion Ghana Ltd, Ghana’s waste management experts and leaders.

What is needed in this respect would be that government would need to further create a more enabling environment and provide full corporation and support for the private sector to take the country to the paradise in terms of waste management.

The other lesson is that the South African Government’s commitment to vote funds for waste management activities is unparalleled. Will the Ghana of government exhibit the same commitment in delivering on even its annual plans and budgets to develop one modern engineered landfill and a transfer station in each of the ten regions to ease the waste problems? This is the conundrum at hand in Ghana.  The kind of landfills in the regional capitals leave much to be desired, talk least of what is at the district levels which are better described as dumping sites.

It was however unfortunate that some residents the writer interacted with in Cape Town had no idea about how waste is being managed and even who manages it. But they knew that it is an offence to litter or dump waste anywhere, a commendable feat for the Law Enforcement Unit of the city’s waste management department.

It, therefore, presupposes that AMA, KMA and others would need to intensify public education to create more awareness as to how waste is managed and reorient citizens of their duties when it comes to the dumping of waste.

Ghana needs this badly.

The Team that visited the City of Cape Town were full of admiration for the manner waste has been sectionalized at the three facilities and how the City authorities are treating waste related issues in there.

Some waste management practitioners in South Africa say the waste reduction rate stands at 30%, another commendable achievement.

Ghana will need to step up efforts towards a similar feat.

#OperationMakeAccraClean

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Views expressed are solely the authors. The writer, FRANCIS ATAYURE ABIRIGO is a Development Communications Specialist and can be reached at +233 203183337/+233 244161902 or by mail at aabirigo@yahoo.com.

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