The cholera epidemic that has since infected over 10,000 people is an annual ritual in Ghana and especially the capital Accra where mountains of filth have engulfed a city our mayor is proud to call the cleanest city in Africa.
A disease whose outbreak signifies how dirty a people are has become common place in Ghana and the shame that comes with it is celebrated as efforts and evidence of our attempts at accelerated development.
The disease is caused by unclean environment and in Ghana, one major cause of this is our choked drainage system largely caused by plastic waste.
With no proper waste disposal system in the city, poor drainage systems, very few places of convenience and the obvious absence of sanitary inspectors whilst we complaint of unemployment for our teaming youth, I contend that the government should take a bold initiative and ban the manufacture and use of plastic bags in all shapes and forms. My reasons are as follows:
Plastic bags are a scourge on our environment and in this day of the green revolution it is mind boggling that we produce so much plastic which has taken over every aspect of our lives as a nation without putting in place mechanisms for their collection, reuse or disposal.
Our water bodies such as the Odor River several lakes and even the sea have been taken over by plastic with their concomitant side effects on aqua culture and ultimately the reintroduction of plastic into the food chain.
Further note that the perennial flooding of Accra which is largely due to choked drainage system, has a large portion of the waste passing through them as plastic.
Properties worth millions of cedi and lives are lost every year due to these floods. Most importantly however is the fact that plastic bags are largely used as fecal matter carriers or waste bins, dumped into drainages systems and our water bodies and it is no surprise therefore that medical personal are now asking for inspections of water producing companies for possible contaminated waters on the market as the source of the wide spread of the epidemic.
Crucial to my demand for banning of plastic bags however is the fact that it a public health hazard and a disaster in the waiting.
Research abound to the effect that plastic bags can cause cancer of the kidney and cancer of the throat, infertility, birth deformities, immune system suppression and development problems in infants.
Scientific evidence available indicates that chemicals used in the production of these plastic do filter into foods and water they contain especially when such food and water is hot such as tea, porridge, soup. Chemicals such as polyethylene, polvinyle chloride, stabilisers, plasticisers, antioxidants, lead, cadmium and mercury may seep into our foods from these bags.
The plastic bag industry maybe a multi-million cedi industry in Ghana but it has a multi-million dollar effect on the environment, on our health and on our lives. Kids drinking from sachet water, porridge on their way to school in plastic bags are a sign of a future of cancers, stunted growth and to top it up our choked city takes millions of cedis to de-silt annually as a result of plastic waste.
On the balance of economy of scale, I will edge the government to put in place legislation to ban the manufacture and use of plastic bags in the country. The current industry players should be edged to look for alternative ways of producing packing materials such as the use of paper which is more environmentally friendly.
Countries poorer than Ghana such as Mali and Somalia have successfully band plastic bags whilst other African countries such as Tanzania, Mauritania, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa have also done same and have an improved environment and a healthy people to thank for.
I wish to edge civil society groups such as Imani Ghana, IDEC, the Ghana medical association, friends of rivers and water bodies, the environmental protection agency (EPA) the international community, lobby groups and more so the parliament of the republic of Ghana to take it up and put the needed pressure on government to legislate to ban the manufacture and use of plastics bags to save Ghana’s future.