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Environmental Pollution, the Old Canker

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Across the globe, there are growing concerns about the state of the environment and its sustainability. Evidently, this influenced the United Nations to have six goals of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focus directly or indirectly on protecting the environment. These goals which outline a plan or action point to ensure that the environment and its constituents are protected are:

According to the unenvironment report in 2019, there were warnings of 1 million plant and animal species facing extinction. Similarly, there has been advocacy to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect life on earth. However, the presence of pollutants in the environment continues to undermine the efforts of the United Nations, governments and other stakeholders in protecting the environment. There are harmful substances (solids, liquids and gases) that reduce the quality of the environment when they are produced in higher concentrations, than the usual. These substances are referred to as pollutants. . Pollutants exist is different forms; chemical, biological and energy (noise, heat and radiation). They are often introduced into the environment through human activities. Human activities sometimes exert negative influences on the environment by polluting land or soil on which plants are grown, the air and water. Urbanization and industrialization have increased the rates of energy consumption and waste discharge. Pollutants have negative effects on human development. Pollutants may increase the occurrence of health problems such as infant mortality, malignancies, respiratory disorders, organ disturbances and perinatal disorders. Pollutants may be biodegradable or non-biodegradable and may originate naturally or from human activities. Pollutants are a major cause of environmental pollution.

Environmental pollution occurs when there are changes in the physical, chemical, or biological constituents of the environment (air masses, temperature, climate, etc.) (Manisalidis, Stavropoulou, Stavropoulos & Bezirtzoglou, 2020). According to the UNEP sixth Global Environment Outlook report, pollutants in freshwater systems, such as antibiotics, can lead to antimicrobial resistance, leading to death. In Ghana, there have been increasing reports of environmental pollution. Ghana was reported to be the second country in Africa with the worst air pollution by IQAir AirVisual’s 2019 World Air Quality Report. Activities such as galamsey and industrialisation which are on a rise in Ghana contribute greatly to the high levels of environmental pollution. Galamsey, for instance, is the practice of mining gold located below water or soil surface illegally. Often operators who resort to this method of mining do not acquire necessary regulatory approvals from institutions and stakeholders such as Forestry Commission, Ghana Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, they evade taxes and operate in prohibited areas such as water bodies, forest reserves etc. The activities of these miners pollute the environment by releasing harmful chemicals into water bodies, land and the atmosphere.

A galamsey site in Ghana

Industralisation, improper waste disposal and increment in usage of plastic are huge contributors to environmental pollution in Ghana. Currently, the number of factories established across the country have increased. These factories during and post production tend to release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, in addition to the increased production of plastics. Unlike other materials such as paper which are used in storage, plastic does not decompose easily. This has resulted in plastics choking waterways, being washed into the sea and other water bodies- choking fish and altering the natural state of these water bodies.

Given the rate of pollution in Ghana, it is necessary that the government and other stakeholders develop and implement policies to protect the environment. Already existing laws and policies that are lagging in implementation should be checked and effective measures put in place to enforce them. Protecting the environment should be a priority, not only for government but citizens as well because humans are dependent on the environment. Hence, any glitch in the environment has a direct or indirect effect on human wellbeing and health.

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