In African countries, failure to correctly manage waste disposal has led to flooding and the outbreak of diseases. Experts met in Ghana to try and come up with some urgent solutions. DW's Isaac Kaledzi reports
Heavy vehicles move towards the Korle Lagoon close to the Volta Lake in Accra. They have come to dump liquid waste into the lagoon which flows into the sea. This mismanagement of waste disposal has a direct negative impact on people in the vicinity. Residents told DW that they were very worried: "It even affects teaching and learning because the children always run out of the classroom when the stench comes up," one villager said. A teacher said that he repeatedly has to leave his post to escape from the smell: "I have to leave the children for about an hour," he said, adding that he often felt nauseous.
To address this decades-old problem, the government of Ghana brought in a recycling company to introduce waste disposal methods which protect the environment. Eric Amofah Sarkodie, an official at the site, explained how the system works. Disposal is being organized in a way that minimizes contact with any kind of waste: "The trawlers just open their discharge valves and everything goes into the underground tanks. From there the waste enters the treatment workshop for screening."
The mismanagement of waste disposal affects many countries in Africa. Recently, hundreds of environmentalists from several countries met in central Ghana at the annual African Clean-Up Conference to seek for new ways of addressing the issue.
Participants of the event focused on best practices in waste management and recycling. Experts at the gathering shared their experience in waste management in their respective countries, and explained what they are doing to improve it. James Mulbah, CEO of Liberia's recycling enterprise Green Cities, said that recycling is key to managing waste. "We are currently recycling organic and electronic waste. We want to get into plastic and other waste subsequently, because we hope to have a zero waste environment," Mulbah said.
Alex Great Akhigbe, activist and coordinator of the Africa Clean-Up conference, said that protecting the environment is an issue that should be taken very seriously by all Africans and not just their governments, if progress was to be made: "For me, one of the major challenges is our attitude towards the environment. We don't have a healthy attitude right now." According to Akhigbe, people are not really aware of the importance of protecting their world. "If we can develop that healthy attitude towards the environment, the environment becomes a better place for everybody," Akhigbe said. "You should not have to wait for somebody to tell you to do the right thing. You know yourself that it is not right to litter the environment."
The event's main resolution called for all government to invest in waste management systems and reduce the rate at which the environment is polluted. Akhigbe hopes that this conference will contribute towards changing the way African countries handle waste and the environment.