In an extremely religious country, is the abundance of rubbish on the streets a contradiction or merely a result of a lack of provisions or education?
Ghana is a country that takes religion and religious duties very seriously. With sixty three per cent of the population Christian, one only needs to pass a shop called ‘God’s Gift Salon’ or ‘By His Grace Chop Bar’ or ‘Jesus Loves You Dressmakers’ to realise this. It would be difficult to miss the religious slogans, such as ‘Jesus Lives’ and ‘Why Deny God?’ plastered on the back window of every trotro and taxion the road. Travelling the streets of Accra on a Sunday morning, one can experience relative peace and quiet due to the majority of Ghanaians attending lengthy church services.The presence of preachers on television, on street corners and even on trotrosreveals just how passionate Ghanaians are about their religion. Ghanaians have even explained that their beliefs are not a religion they follow, but they are a way of life, an unquestionable part of their being.
But one must wonder if it is all just talk. Admittedly, many of the Christian values and principles are upheld by Ghanaians with the greatest commitment and dedication. ‘Love they neighbour’ for example is an important part of Ghanaian culture and is obvious from the warmth and friendliness of the people. Values such as giving, sharing and welcoming others are also Christian values that are second nature to many Ghanaians. ‘You are welcome’ and ‘you are invited’ can be heard whenever entering someone’s house or when in the presence of someone eating a meal.
It is, however, difficult to ignore the blatant contradiction when it comes to love of God’s creations, particularly the earth. Rubbish and pollution is a serious problem in Ghana, and it is a wonder that a people so committed to their religion, their God, and God’s creations could disrespect their environment without hesitation and to such great extent.
The issue of pollution is most evident in Accra, where the city streets are littered with scraps, the open drains are filled with discarded water sachets and plastic bags tangle around your feet as you walk. Everything, even if you are buying something already wrapped in plastic, is placed in a plastic bag for your convenience. Sometimes you will even be provided with two plastic bags for your purchase. And with no public rubbish bins to be found anywhere in the city, it is no wonder there is such an abundance of litter on the ground. People simply throw their rubbish in the gutters or out the windows of cars. It is little wonder how the beaches and ocean along the stunning coastlines of Ghana have become so filthy – it is not uncommon to become tangled in plastic while swimming in the warm water at beaches in and around Accra.
While navigating a clear path through the rubbish on the ground, the smell of burning rubbish can also be smelt, further polluting the air that is already full of fumes, smoke and unpleasant smells. It is troubling to watch the black smoke emanate from piles of rubbish along city streets, in school yards, on private properties and even on the beach. And the pungent smell makes it impossible to enjoy a stroll through Accra.
But apparently some Ghanaians know the value of keeping the country clean. It’s almost a joke when you visit tourist areas like Kakum National Park where they ask you to not only place your litter in the bin, but to separate your waste for recycling purposes. Why do Ghanaians that are not in the tourism industry, not have the same respect for their environment?
In the West, there has been a strong movement in recent years to minimize pollution and curb the effects it has on the environment. Many people try to not only minimize the amount of waste they produce, but also dispose of the waste that is produced in a way that is sanitary and environmentally friendly. Businesses attempt to use packaging that will create minimal waste, can be recycled, or is biodegradable. In Australia, some states now even charge customers for the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and shopping centres because plastic is seen as a threat to the environment. Road users buy special environmentally friendly cars to minimize their output of pollution into the atmosphere, and in some places, taxes have been introduced to control the amount of pollution produced by business. Recycling is a part of the culture, and those that make an effort to recycle their waste are rewarded through schemes and reimbursement. It is accepted that there must now be a conscious effort by everyone to reduce pollution and its impact on the environment.
It is frustrating, then, to see the abundance of rubbish that litters Ghana, and to see the rubbish that is collected simply burned and not dealt with in a productive manner. The issue of pollution in Ghana is a blatant contradiction to the outpouring of religion and love of God and His creations.
The apparent indifference to the consequences of pollution could be a lack of education of the effects that rubbish has on the environment, and the effects that burning of waste has on the atmosphere. It is a serious issue and education on the dangers it poses to the health of animals and the inconvenient and unsanitary conditions that are created from blocked drains needs to be addressed.
Ghana has such an abundance of natural beauty in the diverse landscapes that cover the country. It is a pity then, that there is such an abundance of waste polluting this beautiful land, especially from those who claim to love all God’s creations.