“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our children”. An African proverb which served as the concluding statement by Dr. Yirenyo-Tawiah at the just ended 15th Biennial Workshop of the Ghana Science Association. Organised under the theme “Efficient Waste and Sanitation Management for sustainable Development: The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation,”, the workshop brought together GSA members from all over the country, industry players and government representatives to discuss how scientists can contribute towards solving the environmental and sanitation problems faced by the country a whole.
Defining the problem
Presentations from Dr. Mawuli Dzodzomenyo form the school of public health at UG and Mr. Anthony Mensah, a chief engineer with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), served well to frame the problem at hand at the start of the workshop. The presentations highlighted the first sanitation policy introduced in 1999 and its continuous changing face since then in an attempt to meet a changing society. Such revisions to the Environmental Sanitation Policy have laid emphasis on sustainable management and practices in the areas of resource recovery, reuse and recycling, and the developed the Strategic Environmental Investment Plan to provide a financing strategy for environmental sanitation services.Other identified struggles was the lack of a government led recycle program and minimal collaborations between academia, industry and the AMA.
Towards a scientific solution
Mr Collins Dauda, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, in a speech on his behalf, acknowledged the fact that proper environmental sanitation and waste management are among the key setbacks to Ghana’s developmental progress, owing to the current increasing nature in population and urbanisation. According to him there is the need for the development of evidenced-based research and solutions to efficiently control the problem, and “this we can only achieve when we work together as technocrats, scientists and policy makers, for a common goal”.
He explained that currently the per capita waste generation in the country was estimated at 0.5 kilogrammes per person per day, which translates into about 13.5 tonnes a day per the population of about 27 million. This poses a huge financial burden on government revenue and consumes about 35 per cent of municipal budgets besides periodic financial support from Development Partners.
Dr Esther Gyedu Akoto, the President of the Ghana Science Association, said the problem is daunting and multifaceted, and require the adoption of internationally adopted practices, which involves recycling, waste reduction and reuse. She called for strengthened collaboration between government and other stakeholders to whip up public attitudes towards sustainable environmental sanitation management.
Other presentations were also received from Dr Victor Kwame Agyemeng, the Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; Dr. Nana Kwesi Rockson, Director Research and Development, Zoomlion Ghana Limited and Prof. Christopher Gordon, Director Institute of Environmental and Sanitation Studies (UG). Each speaker touched on a number of approaches been trialed to foster stronger ties between industry and academia including research into alternative waste disposal methods which can best address the needs of the Ghanaian waste management challenges.
The overall tone of the workshop reiterated the critical role of science, technology and innovation in waste management, taking into account the limitations in going from the pilot stages into full scale implementation of innovative products. This requires a combined effort from entrepreneurs who wish to partner with academia to move research and innovations to the market place and also for policy makers to develop appropriate legislation to support the move.